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New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the now-a-respectable-middle-class-planet dept.

Space 118

Matt_dk writes with this excerpt from Space Fellowship: "Venus Express has charted the first map of Venus' southern hemisphere at infrared wavelengths. The new map hints that our neighbouring world may once have been more Earth-like, with a plate tectonics system and an ocean of water. The map comprises over a thousand individual images, recorded between May 2006 and December 2007. Because Venus is covered in clouds, normal cameras cannot see the surface, but Venus Express used a particular infrared wavelength that can see through them."

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Misleading title (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690561)

Venus... Wet... Volcanic... - sounds like the perfect title for some strange alien porn :-)

Re:Misleading title (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690655)

Your mom has a wet, volcanic past.

Re:Misleading title (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692897)

Wait until they find out Uranus is wet and volcanic.

Re:Misleading title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692989)

Only when I've been eating chili.

Re:Misleading title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28695073)

mmmm.... chili....

Re:Misleading title ... my second thought was... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693991)

NASA pap shows dent at Uranus' volatile (p)as(s)t.... this could be a cosmogasmic/galactigasmic pit sto(m)p...

crap... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690569)

That title would have been so much better if it was:

"Infrared Scan Of Venus' Southern Regions Hints At Wet, Hot Past"

Re:crap... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690727)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

Greenhouse cataclysm (2, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690571)

The new map hints that our neighbouring world may once have been more Earth-like, with a plate tectonics system and an ocean of water.

Yep. Until the Venusians burned all those fossil fuels and released all that CO2....

Re:Greenhouse cataclysm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690589)

Too bad the Venusians didn't have Al Gore around!

Re:Greenhouse cataclysm (2, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690621)

Damn you Mekon! [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Greenhouse cataclysm (5, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690765)

No, I blame the people who didn't want to burn greenhouse gases who pushed everyone to use renewable sources like "Geo-thermal" or "Venu-Thermal" energy that caused plate tectonics to grind to a halt and the outer crust to solidify and thicken which was all well and good until a few hundred million years later all of that internal Venusian heat had to go somewhere and lo and behold instant planet wide resurfacing and extreme out gassing.

The Eco-nuts of Venus were all proud of their renewable energy plan for geothermal until the fateful day the surface of the planet melted and they were all screwed. Thanks eco-nuts!!! Now there is one less habitable planet in the solar system! Too bad all of the amazon Venusian Women melted in the great planetary resurfacing 500 million years ago.

Re:Greenhouse cataclysm (0, Troll)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691233)

There's no "Funny" in "Flamebait". To bad there isn't a "Mediocre" mod.

I thought of... (1)

Rah'Dick (976472) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690577)

When I read that title, I thought of the mythological Venus, not the planet. SCNR.

Re:I thought of... (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690753)

When over 2000 year old, not hot and steamy you will be, too!

I mean, get real, she might have been a hottie in her past, but that's like lusting for your grand-grand-grandmother's friend...

Re:I thought of... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690781)

What, do goddesses age like mortals?

Re:I thought of... (1, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691023)

Usually, no. They die of drug abuse.

Re:I thought of... (1)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693503)

Usually, no. They die of drug abuse.

Or cancer...

Too soon?

Interesting, but was already assumed (-1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690581)

This is just a confirmation of my astronomers hypothesis, many believe that Venus was much like Earth before it was overheated and lost its atmosphere being too close to the sun. I mean it is great that we continue to discover various parts of the universe, but Venus does very little for us seeing that it is in no way habitable because of the extreme heat no almost no atmosphere.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690673)

Did you not read that part about how you can't see the surface because of the clouds? Yeah, that's an atmosphere, it's just not a very pleasant one.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690729)

So Venus lost it's atmosphere eh? good thing it did because now we can send landers that don't have to worry about the 100X sea level pressures.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690803)

Umm... someone correct me, but doesn't Venus have a pretty THICK atmosphere, rather? Just with insane pressure and a composition that would even make smog-accustomed LA residents refuse to take a breath?

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (5, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690821)

Venus is actually quite terra-formable. It does have an atmosphere, an extremely thick one at that, which has caused its high temperature. It also has gravity closer to ours than the moon or Mars. If we could turn the CO2 into O2 and usable carbon (like for soil), we could eventually live on it. Wouldn't be easy, but probably more feasible than terra-forming Mars.

Just because you are wrong and I called you out on it doesn't mean I am a Troll.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690897)

All we need is a wormhole to suck the atmosphere from Venus to Mars and we are all set.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691695)

Hey, Earth had a worm hole until john crichton collapsed, maybe Venus would have one too?

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690977)

It also has gravity closer to ours than the moon or Mars.

Gravity is a nice thing, but since you eventually want to launch more stuff into space, Mars-like gravity is better than something close to 1g. It allows all the niceties (indoor plumbing, showers, toilets, kitchens, cups of coffee, etc) while still making it much easier to launch something.

If we could turn the CO2 into O2 and usable carbon (like for soil), we could eventually live on it.

Unfortunately, you'll need hydrogen, too, and most of Venus' hydrogen has already escaped into space. Large amounts of nitrogen would be nice, too, which Venus seems to be lacking, too.

Wouldn't be easy, but probably more feasible than terra-forming Mars.

Mars is probably closer to being terraformed now than Venus will be for thousands of years (even if we start working on it now). You could take a walk on Mars in a spacesuit right now, on Venus, you'd be well-done within seconds. A Martian day is about 25 hours, compare that to a few weeks on Venus, with all the associated problems (even if we get rid of the atmosphere, someone on the planet will be in direct sunlight for weeks, and without sunlight for weeks).

The approach for terraforming Venus that sounds most promising to me was to build a giant sunshade, wait until the atmosphere solidifies, and then ship it offworld or shoot it into space. Then crash some comets rich in hydrogen and nitrogen on the planet.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (4, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691065)

How about bio-engineering some extremophiles to due some conversions for us? Then, when we land, we just release some extremophile-eating microbes to clean up. Then winter comes, and they all freeze to death.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691241)

I was thinking that too, but can any organism in existence thrive at 422-442 celsius (792F - 828F), consume CO2 and expell O2 at a good speed (approx 25 years?) Can it be bio-engineered? Oh, and we have to keep it dormant for the trip to Venus, have it survive impact, wake up after the trip, then we have to be able to handle it after the work is done.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (0)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691407)

I was wondering what would happen if you placed a mirror in an orbit between the sun and Venus so that the mirror remained between the two at all times (I am sure there is a term for it, geostationary but relative to the sun). Anyhow, if it were a few tens of square miles, would it be able to deflect enough of the sun's energy to bring about an appreciable drop in temperature. My thought is that once you started the cooling, that other processes like thinning of the atmosphere would cause a multiplier effect.

Please feel free to shoot holes in this idea :)

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692123)

IANAOMS, but I think that for the mirror to be stable at an orbit closer than Venus, it would have to move faster than Venus. If it moved at the same angular velocity as Venus, but was closer in, I think it would be unstable and eventually fall into the Sun. A series of shields in stable orbit around Venus, each a couple of thousand square km, might work better... Cooling the atmosphere is certainly a requirement, but I think that you would need to remove the CO2 before you saw additional benefit. You would also need to remove the SO2 and figure out what to do about the 92 atmospheres of pressure at the surface to make it livable...

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (2, Informative)

scotsghost (1125495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695231)

You're thinking of a Lagrange point [wikipedia.org] . It's analagous to a geostationary orbit -- it's position is fixed in space relative to two large masses.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

ygfperson (1147945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693383)

This isn't +5 Interesting, it's a joke from the Simpsons.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693691)

Simpsons IS +5 Interesting

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691425)

Plenty of hydrogen in the atmospheric sulfuric acid. Also, a Venusian day is 243 days back here on Earth; this is related to Venus being the only planet to rotate backwards compared to the other planets, probably the result of a collision long ago.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (1)

Sparklepony (1088131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692307)

Nowhere near "plenty" as far as the job of converting all that CO2 into organic molecules is concerned, unfortunately. Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AtmosphereofVenus.png [wikipedia.org] - the only hydrogen-bearing compound abundant enough to even make it on the chart is water vapor, at twenty parts per million.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (2, Insightful)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691353)

If we could turn CO2 into useful oxygen and free carbon, don't you think we'd be doing it here on Earth first?

Define "quite terra-formable" (2, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691597)

There is the minor problem of the small fraction sulphuric acid and the small amount of nitrogen. If we really converted all the CO2 to O2 then fires would be a major concern. We would actually need to remove a large fraction of the atmosphere, add nitrogen (or other inert gas), filter out the H2SO4 and also find some way to massively increase the albedo to reduce the far greater heating from the sun. If you can do all of that then you are right - Venus is terraformable. Short of them finding the cure for aging I doubt I'm going to live to see it happen though.

Re:Define "quite terra-formable" (4, Interesting)

Sparklepony (1088131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692343)

There's no need to add nitrogen. Nitrogen is only 3.5% of Venus' atmosphere, but thanks to the sheer mass of Venus' atmosphere this is still more than three times as much nitrogen as is present in Earth's atmosphere.

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (2, Interesting)

Creepy (93888) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691689)

Huh? Venus has a dense atmosphere - much denser than Earth's (something like being under 1km of water at the surface). I believe you meant lost its water, not atmosphere. While Venus is closer to the sun than Earth, it gets about one quarter the sunlight of Mercury yet has a higher maximum surface temperature to to the greenhouse gas effect.

So beyond just the heat, a human would need either liquid breathing or a rigid articulated pressure controlled suit, and liquid breathing has plenty of issues for any long-term use. Something like the Libelle G-suit (body is in a rigid suit immersed in liquid, but still breathing air - the name means Dragonfly in German and is based on them) would probably not work for survival on Venus, but it could be used for higher acceleration to get there (or to Mars).

Re:Interesting, but was already assumed (2, Insightful)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694247)

A human would likely live "on Venus" in a floating city high up in its atmosphere.

Volcanic, or just really hot? (2, Interesting)

Blixinator (1585261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690593)

Does molten rock really mean there has to be a volcano? The thermal map shows that some parts get up to 715 K, hot enough to melt lead.

Re:Volcanic, or just really hot? (3, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690723)

The melting points of most types of rock are quite a bit higher than that.

maybe it's just me but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690595)

that title sounds so subliminally suggestive, lol

Venus Got Screwed up when plate techtonics stopped (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690709)

Plate tectonics stopped on venus long ago and this lead to overheating which caused a massive planet wide resurfacing and out gassing ever few hundred million years, causing venus to be the craphole it is now. If it had a moon and decent rotation plate techtonics would have likely been persevered. and life may still have been there.

Re:Venus Got Screwed up when plate techtonics stop (3, Interesting)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691047)

Planetary rotation and the presence of moons has nothing to do with plate tectonics. The moon's gravity isn't strong enough to move whole sections of the planet's crust. The direction of plate motion varies from place to place and over time. If it were affected by the Earth's rotation, plates would only move CCW or CW. Plate motion on Earth is powered by mantle convection - magma from the lower mantle rising towards the surface, cooling, sinking back down, heating up, rising, etc. The recycling of magma essentially drags the plates around, like a conveyor belt.

Venus has a kind of tectonic cycle, but it works much differently. Based on the presence and relative age of craters and volcanoes on the surface, Venus seems to undergo catastrophic, global volcanism every 500Ma. This massive periodic volcanism, among other things, replenishes the planet's super-thick CO2 atmosphere. Otherwise, solar winds would have long ago stripped Venus of its atmosphere, since the planet has no significant magnetosphere.

Re:Venus Got Screwed up when plate techtonics stop (1)

Convector (897502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694405)

Very nice description. However, Earth's plate tectonics can affect the rate of recession of the Moon. The configuration of the continents controls the size of the ocean basins, which in turn controls how dissipative the Earth is. The dissipation rate controls how quickly angular momentum is transferred from the Earth's rotation to the Moon's mean motion. As the moon gets more angular momentum, it moves away from the Earth.

That said, I agree with your post. I just thought this was a neat, if only tangentially related tidbit.

Re:Venus Got Screwed up when plate techtonics stop (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695201)

I've never heard that one before. I know that tidal forces are slowing down the Earth-Moon system's rotation and are causing the Moon to drift farther from the Earth. But, it makes sense that the distribution of ocean water would impart some variability to the equation. I wonder if the Tharsis Bulge on Mars has similar effects . . .

You know, I always tell my students (I'm an earth science professor at a community college in NYC) that Plate Tectonics explains everything on Earth. This is another great example. I'll have to figure out how to work it into one of my lectures. It'll make their ears bleed just a little bit more than usual >)

Kinda puts a kink in Gaia theory though (1)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692425)

Assuming life was able to start there in the first place (and given large amounts of water and the right temperature, it seems possible it could had). Organisms that thrived on excess CO2 and helped trapped excess CO2 should have flourished and helped regulate the atmosphere.

Re:Kinda puts a kink in Gaia theory though (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695391)

Gaia Theory, as I learned it back in college, is simply a way of expressing the variety of organic/inorganic cycles that mediate conditions on a planet. The carbon cycle is an excellent example of this. Photosynthetic plankton absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, die, and eventually become seafloor sediment. That carbonate rock is eventually subducted into the lower mantle where it melts and fuels volcanic eruptions, rereleasing the CO2 into the atmosphere. Long-term changes in plankton populations can lead to changes in volcanic CO2 output, which can lead to changes in climate and plankton populations . . . and so on.

However, Gaia theory does not presuppose that life will appear on a planet simply because there is water and CO2. It just explains how living and nonliving systems can interact to maintain the necessary conditions for life, once it appears. Just because a house has a thermostat doesn't mean people live there.

On Venus, a runaway greenhouse effect early in the planet's history lead to extremely hot, arid conditions which essentially dehydrated the planet before bacterial life had a chance to develop. As far as we can tell, the only thing that kept the same scenario from occurring on Earth was our distance from the Sun. Cooler temperatures allowed water vapor to condense into oceans and subsequent absorb the excess CO2.

I had a weird thought (2, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690717)

Why is that so many people who dream of colonizing other worlds and traveling faster than light rarely leave their own houses?

Re:I had a weird thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690787)

Because real life sucks.

Re:I had a weird thought (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690807)

because interplanetary travel comes at the cost of being confined to a small space?

Re:I had a weird thought (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690995)

I am actually curious to see how this ends up getting modded. Troll? Funny? Insightful. My secret wish is for +5 Troll.

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

johndiii (229824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691255)

It needs this response, though:

Why is that so many people who dream of colonizing other worlds and traveling faster than light rarely leave their parents' basement?

There, fixed that for you.

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691337)

That was my original thought as well. I was trying to be a little kind :)

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

Ozlanthos (1172125) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691311)

it's because everyone thinks they are weird...and they know it.

-Oz

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691983)

well, it's an all or nothing attitude. if i can't walk in a park that's on a planet on the other side of the galaxy, then i wont walk in any park at all!

Re:I had a weird thought (3, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692159)

For the same reason people who think for sure they'd be a part of Star Fleet if it existed very rarely join the military.

Most people who dream of flying a star ship will never go about taking up flying the planes that we DO have available to us.

Most people who cheer on the Rebels in Star Wars would never ever think of taking up arms against a hostile government.

All in all, a lot of people are dreamers rather than actual doers. As a person who still is a fan of Sci-fi - your sentiment is one that I realized myself a while back, and I've personally chosen to make an active attempt to enjoy and accept the time I live in, and the technology available to me. While fun in it's own way, if all you do is look wishfully towards a future that we'll never see (and likely won't quite materialize the way we envision it anyways), then life gets kind of boring after a while.

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

not-my-real-name (193518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693505)

For the same reason people who think for sure they'd be a part of Star Fleet if it existed very rarely join the military.

In the Star Trek universe, Star Fleet is the only organization that does anything interesting. Colonists are basically cannon fodder. Corporations are corrupt. Any scientific research is either driven by Star Fleet or megalomaniac/corrupt scientists (or both). It doesn't leave much choice.

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693885)

For the same reason people who think for sure they'd be a part of Star Fleet if it existed very rarely join the military. [...] All in all, a lot of people are dreamers rather than actual doers.

No, that's a bunch of shit. The fictional Enterprise is on a mission of peaceful exploration, trying to help people. That's not what the U.S. military does! Helping people only happens when it supports some concrete goal, take a look at history if you aren't in line with that one. I don't join the military because I don't want to support American imperialism. I would join something like Starfleet, for obvious reasons.

I think you're projecting.

Most people who cheer on the Rebels in Star Wars would never ever think of taking up arms against a hostile government.

Most people wouldn't recognize a hostile government if it shot them in the face.

Re:I had a weird thought (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694199)

That's an easy one...

Because we still waste too much money fighting each other over whose god has the biggest dick, and too little of those resources into getting ourselves off this planet and ensuring the survival of our ecology?

  The day the human race grows up and learns that it's real enemy is the universe - entropy - will be the day that we climb out of the cradle and learn what it means to grow up.

  Not likely any of us mortals at this point in time will see it.

SB

we always focus on mars (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690749)

but i always thought venus was a better target for terraforming

its easier to subtract out of venus' atmosphere than put in mars' atmosphere what isn't there. i didn't say EASY, i said EASIER

some sort of genetically engineered bug that sequesters all of the CO2 and H2SO4, and permanently precipitates it out, preferably leaving O2 and H2O. something that could live on top of the clouds and in them. there's a lot of energy in that atmosphere, and you're closer to the sun... which is actually good: something to work with. rather than being far from the sun and feeble with resources, like mars

again, this is in no way easy, but if we ever reach the technological acumen and sustained effort needed to terraform one of our neighbors, i really think venus is a much better target than mars. more available energy to work with, almost identical gravity profile, and the need to subtract something out of the atmosphere, rather than to somehow create what isn't there, which is a lot easier to do, logically

mars has a long and sustained following and fan base, in science fiction as well as real science, but venus is the real future of mankind's first off-world colonization (besides the moon), if we ever get to that level of sophistication to even consider the possibility

Re:we always focus on mars (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690817)

there's a lot of energy in that atmosphere,

A lot of energy doesn't help one bit if you can't turn it into a useful form.

In fact, many of our present ways of generating energy would work much better in really cold places due to a higher temperature difference to work with.

and you're closer to the sun... which is actually good: something to work with.

I hope you're bringing sunscreen with SPF measured in powers of ten.

biological creatures (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691263)

don't depend on temperature differences. the only difference between hypothetical terraforming bug #1, functioning at high temp, versus hypothetical terraforming bug #2, functioning at low temp, is that bug #1 will work orders of magnitude faster than bug #2. regardless, we're not going to be terraforming with industrial sized reactors that do depend upon temp differences, but with nanotech, or more likely, genetically engineered critters

furthermore, suncreen with high SPF is the least of your concerns. with no water, nothing on venus exists to lubricate plate tectonics. with no plate tectonics, there is convection in the core, and therefore, no geomagnetic field. meaning venus is being bombarded with cosmic rays and other nasty high energy rays from the sun. i think the order of the day for living on a terraformed venus would be: have a nice fashionable lead umbrella ;-P

Re:we always focus on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691015)

I always figured we could build large floating cities in Venus' atmosphere, that would be almost literally floating. The region which is near Earth surface pressure has pretty reasonable temperature, too.

Heat and UV (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691719)

The problem with Venus is that it is closer to the sun. Even if you converted Venus into Earth 2.0 it would almost certainly be too hot to live on. This means that you would need some way to cool the planet significantly as well as shield it better from the increased UV radiation. Not impossible but I'm not so sure it is a better target than Mars. The advantage of Mars is that you can build structures on the surface as a step towards terraforming and build up the process gradually. This is close to impossible on Venus. Mars may have some disadvantages (cooler, lower gravity) but I'm not sure that these are bigger problems than Venus'.

people live in phoenix (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692085)

where the temperature is regularly 115 degrees. they do it by just not going outdoors that much and having good ac. so you live indoors on venus, and you have genetically engineered crops that can withstand the high temps and scorching rays (as well as cosmic rays and other nasty high energy rays, since venus has no geomagnetism). you could have some nice architecture with large bay windows, just no skylights ;-P

now compare that limitation with mars, with the very low atmospheric pressure, the much lower gravity, and the bitter cold. you would need a moonsuit to go outside on mars, even a terraformed one, unless you figured out some magical way to bulk up the atmosphere. as opposed to the limitations that most GIs in iraq suffer under on their tour of duties. that would be like going outside on a hypothetical terraformed venus with an atmosphere you would need to precipate and reduce- a hard job, but easier than bulking up mars' atmosphere

furthermore, venus's day is something like 100 earth days long. currently, the temperature is uniform on venus, nightside to dayside, pole to equator, due to the crazy dense atmosphere. but a terraformed venus would definitely exhibit temperature differences like on earth. desert dwellers on earth are familiar with the very hot days and very cold nights. so you'd have a siesta-like culture, where no one would go out in the middle of the night or the the middle of the day (where the "day" is 100 days long), but at dusk and dawn, you would have weeks of pleasant temperatures in between

Re:we always focus on mars (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692009)

Actually from many things I have seen, Mars would actually be easier to terraform, but I have always thought that Venus had more long term potential. A couple of years ago I saw a suggestion of a system to terraform Mars that is within our current technological capability. The article ran all of the numbers and it would work. The basic idea was that you find an ice asteroid or two and crash them into Mars. This would provide the missing water and help increase the density of the atmosphere (it has been long enough that I don't remember if the author suggested finding an asteroid with frozen gases such as nitrogen as well or not). The increased water and atmospheric density would create a greenhouse effect increasing the ambient temperature. I wish I could remember who the author was. It may have been Larry Niven, but I'm not sure.

Re:we always focus on mars (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692015)

unfortunately it also means that in the event of some freaky sun-related incident like a giant solar flare, electronic devices on venus will be fried way easier than anything on earth, or especially mars. (although maybe i'm wrong about the mars part. after all, it doesn't have a humongous magnetic field protecting it...)

Re:we always focus on mars (5, Insightful)

Sparklepony (1088131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692045)

but i always thought venus was a better target for terraforming. its easier to subtract out of venus' atmosphere than put in mars' atmosphere what isn't there. i didn't say EASY, i said EASIER. some sort of genetically engineered bug that sequesters all of the CO2 and H2SO4, and permanently precipitates it out, preferably leaving O2 and H2O. something that could live on top of the clouds and in them.

Actually, no, it's way harder to terraform Venus than it is to terraform Mars. The "just introduce algae" idea was proposed in 1961 by Carl Sagan, before the full extent of just how awful Venus' atmosphere was was fully appreciated. Venus has 90 atmospheres worth of carbon dioxide, and pretty much no available hydrogen. If you want to convert carbon into organic molecules, you need to have hydrogen - carbon alone is not sufficient. But if by some chance you did somehow convert 90 atmospheres worth of carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen, what you'd wind up with is a furnace-hot planet with 60 atmospheres of pure oxygen and a layer of flammable carbon several hundred feet thick. This is not a stable situation, it'll go right back to the way it is now very quickly and spectacularly (though since the carbon would have been burning as fast as it's produced you'd never get such an extreme disequilibrium in real life). The permanent sequestration of all that carbon dioxide will require the addition of more material to the planet's atmosphere from the outside than would be required to give Mars a whole new atmosphere from scratch.

Furthermore, once you've given Venus an Earthlike atmosphere, there's another issue to consider; Venus has a rotation that's 243 Earth days long. Night lasts for 122 days on Venus. Without its ultra-dense atmosphere to convey heat around it's going to get extremely cold in the dark. We'll have to come up with a whole new ecology to endure those conditions and it doesn't sound all that fun for human inhabitants.

Re:we always focus on mars (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692287)

Or we'd have to do something at least as difficult as adding an atmosphere to Mars, slam asteroids into Venus in exactly the right way to speed up its rotation. FYI, a martian day is already quite close in length to an Earth day.

The whole completely replacing the crust every half billion years that theorized to happen on Venus is a bit of an inconvenience as well.

wrong (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692649)

if you actually converted venus's atmosphere to something approximating earth's, it wouldn't be as hot anymore. right now, venus is the same temp, pole to equator, night to day. but reduced, the atmosphere would be like living in the desert, you'd have very cold nights, and very hot days. and since a day on venus is 100 days long, it means you'd have a siesta culture where everyone stays inside midday, and inside midnight. dawn and dusk would be pleasant in between, and dawn and dusk would last weeks. ecologically, you'd grow your crops like they do in northern climes on earth, except that winter/ summer would actually be night/ day seasons

as for your unstable balance of o2 and carbon, thats pretty much earth, right now. i can walk into most any nonwater environment on earth and start an inferno by myself if i wanted to. and yet our biosphere has lasted a plenty long time, mainly because the biosphere maintains the balance. it would be maintained biologically the same way on venus

however, you do allude to low amounts of hydrogen, which is an issue. and you don't mention the lack of geomagnetism, another serious constraint (constant bombardment of deadly high energy rays: so you stay indoors)

but those constraints in my mind are certainly no worse than the constraints of low atmosphere, low gravity, and low temperature (mars)

Re:wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28694865)

Maybe we should throw Mars at Venus the same way a Mars-sized object struck Earth. That way Venus would get a moon, metal core, and high rate of spin to set up a magnetic field around it.

Re:wrong (1)

Sparklepony (1088131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695243)

as for your unstable balance of o2 and carbon, thats pretty much earth, right now. i can walk into most any nonwater environment on earth and start an inferno by myself if i wanted to. and yet our biosphere has lasted a plenty long time, mainly because the biosphere maintains the balance. it would be maintained biologically the same way on venus

I think you're underestimating the magnitude of the difference here, and just how reactive that much pure oxygen would be. The Apollo 1 fire happened because the capsule was filled with slightly more than one atmosphere of pure oxygen, which made anything remotely flammable turn into a blowtorch the moment it ignited. This would be more than an order of magnitude worse than that. And the planet wouldn't cool down appreciably until after you'd got rid of the atmosphere, so it'd still be hot enough to melt lead while you're starting to introduce both high-pressure oxygen and a fuel source to the environment. Photosynthetic life might help maintain a livable environment after you've made it livable, but it's not going to get there by itself - no way no how. Sagan himself retracted the idea in his book Pale Blue Dot.

One of the proposals I've seen that seems much more plausible is to refine calcium and magnesium metal from extravenusian sources such as the Moon or asteroids, and bombard the planet with ingots of it. Calcium and magnesium metal can react with carbon dioxide to form solid carbonates. You'd still need an enormous amount of it, though, and I'm not 100% sure on whether even inorganic carbonates would be stable at Venusian temperatures.

Alternately, you could perhaps colonize Venus as-is using aerostat cities. At an altitude of 50 kilometers above Venus' surface the atmospheric pressure is about the same as sea level on Earth and the temperature is in the 0-50 degree C range, the most Earthlike conditions you can find anywhere in the solar system outside of Earth itself. What's more, an Earthlike oxygen-nitrogen mix is lower density than Venus' carbon dioxide atmosphere, so your balloon city would be able to float using nothing but its own internal air as a lifting gas. A spiffy idea, IMO.

i didn't say it would be easy (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695519)

i said it would EASIER than terraforming mars

with mars, you're faced with the problem of making an atmosphere where there isn't any. that seems like a harder problem than getting a high oxygen atmosphere to behave. you talk about bombarding venus with alkali metals or calling up lando calrissian: these seems way harder to me

" Photosynthetic life might help maintain a livable environment after you've made it livable, but it's not going to get there by itself - no way no how"

absolutely opposite that statement: if we are ever going to make venus livable, photosynthetic life is pretty much probably going to be the only route that is arrived at. if we are ever going to terraform venus, we are going to genetically engineer some pretty amazing critters (again: EASIER than mars, not EASY). with all that sunlight, all that energy, enough of those critters can be on full time biochemical effort keeping that oxygen in check. as a case study, i offer you earth: the same problem, on a smaller scale

Re:we always focus on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28694243)

A big problem with Venus is that the venusian day takes 116 earth days which would make plants, animals and insects die pretty quickly (unless you bioengineer their metabolic cycles somehow)

Re:we always focus on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28694385)

We could always speed up the rotation of Venus by throwing a moon-sized object into orbit around it. Might actually solve the magnetic field issue by spinning the Venusian metal core potentially generating a magnetic shield around Venus just as Earth is shielded.

Re:we always focus on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28694281)

some sort of genetically engineered bug that sequesters all of the CO2 and H2SO4, and permanently precipitates it out, preferably leaving O2 and H2O. something that could live on top of the clouds and in them. there's a lot of energy in that atmosphere, and you're closer to the sun... which is actually good: something to work with. rather than being far from the sun and feeble with resources, like mars

You know... if we could do that then Guhwobo wappah [youtube.com] on our own planet wouldn't be such a big deal.

Lots of possible "Wet" satellites (2, Interesting)

UseCase (939095) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690759)

There seem to be a high percentage of historically "Wet" satellites in our solar system. Earth,Venus, Mars possibly Europa, Titan....... Are our assumptions about solar system formation and the likely hood of liquid water covered satellites off?

Re:Lots of possible "Wet" satellites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691397)

Indeed, it seems our planet is situated in the middle of a graveyard. Could it be that the "wet phase", many / all rocky planets seem to go through (our current one on Earth has lasted about 4 billion years) is just temporary? Is the Earth an exception to this rule, in that it seems to have achieved stability, or will we eventually dry up as well?

I guess it's like emptying a bag full of coins on the floor from a height. The will bounce and flip and spin, but eventually they will all settle either on heads (atmosphere drifts off into space like Mars) or on tails (water boiled away, Venus). However there is the very rare possibility that maybe, just maybe, a coin will land on its edge and stay there (atmosphere remains stable, Earth.) The implications for the Drake equation are rather depressing.

so, venus had a wet past... (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690789)

but dry present is discouraging.

Hot vs Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690811)

Is it me, or did the "cool" parts of the map look to be over 400C?

The Roman goddess of love. (0, Redundant)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690837)

...and the submission's title.

There's a joke here. I just know it...

Think... think... think....

Nope, can't think of one.

Venutian granite (-1, Troll)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690861)

all my asshole neighbors with their terrestrial granite counter tops would be SO jealous

Re:Venutian granite (2, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691107)

I like to point out to those people that granite is radioactive and some forms have been shown to give off levels of radon several times higher than the FDA recommends as safe. Then ask how much food they prepare on them.

Re:Venutian granite (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692219)

Holy shit!!

Re:Venutian granite (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692291)

well the radiation from the granite kills off bacteria, right? I think that's a win win.

Re:Venutian granite (3, Funny)

batquux (323697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693923)

It's ok, I coated my granite counter top with lead to block the radiation.

All Summer in a Day (1)

pinkj (521155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690913)

Bradbury was right about the wet part at least [wikipedia.org] !

Alright wrong wording. (0)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691017)

You got me, I wasn't trying to saying Venus didn't have an atmosphere, but its lighter gases (Hydrodren, Helium, Oxygen were all burned and or pull off) do to its close proximity to the sun. Leaving it with the dense gases which it is currently made of (Nitrogen and Carbon dioxide..maybe a little methane, but don't quote me I haven't taken an atronomy class since freshman year of college). So sorry in forgetting to say part of.

When it will the port it? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691025)

That technology using some particular wavelength of IT to see through? Do they have any plans to incorporate them into sun glasses?

SFW? (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691083)

I wonder how many people will get fired as a result of reading this article, and then googling for "wet venus" at work, and getting NSFW results.

Number of Comments When I Posted (2, Funny)

2names (531755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691261)

42. It's everywhere!

We need better resolution on the imaging- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692239)

To see the remains of ancient smokestacks which should lead to an answer to the Fermi paradox.

Slashdot tags always amaze me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692605)

When I see the title, before even looking at the tags, I know what they will be. I'm not sure if that is /. polluting my mind, or if polluted minds are intrinsically drawn to /.

Now the number one planet to study (1)

Shadowmist (57488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692789)

If this is true, Venus is now the number one planet to study. If it started out to be that much more Earthlike than we had previouly figured out to be than we need to know what happened to turn a potential Twin Earth to Hell. And is Earth going towards the same route and how much may Humanity have to say about it one way or the other? Why is it's rotation so slow? (Little known factiod, the extra weird thing about Venus' rotation is that it is locked to Earth in that whenever it is at closest approach to our world, it is always showing the same side)

I replyed that this was a miswording (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693557)

Further down, if you would like to look, but I meant to say part of its atmosphere, which include the lighter elements of Oxygen, Helium, and Hydrogen. This left the denser elements which it consists of now(Nitrogen and Carbon dioxide.)

The water on venus may have never escaped. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28695031)

Chances are, it's still present on the planet, all up in the clouds, mixed with sulfur from volcanic activity, and has resulted in a much thicker atmosphere.

I'm probably wrong but an earth-sized planet (it's smaller by a small margin) losing all its water and earth not losing it at all through space (water isnt that lightweight) leads me to believe all of venus' water that isnt trapped in minerals in the mantle (oxygen and hydrogen rich minerals) is more than likely in the atmosphere and unable to fall back to the surface due to the extreme heat at the surface.

Good chance that the reason for this may also be due to why Venus is rotating backwards, It may have experienced an event that we fear happening here. A very large asteroid that was headed for the sun may have hit Venus over 500MYA and causes a resurfacing event, and the heat from the blast vaporized all the water on the planet, and large amounts of sulfur from the resurfacing event mixed with the clouds.

Who knows, Venus may be in the middle of being "reborn" for all we know. Similar to the event that's theorized to have formed the moon in regards to earth. Something huge hit Earth, and the planet was resurfaced.

Hell, it could have been a moon in Orbit around venus that collided for all we know, something HUGE had to have collided with Venus at some point to cause the rotation to not only slow down to 243 Earth days, but to go in reverse.

Venus's, not Venus' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28695259)

I really people would learn the rules of the English language - they're not that difficult.

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