Venus is more Earth-like than previously thought and while the atmosphere is certainly unforgiving, it’s not as boring as scientists have assumed. The European Space Agency’s Venus Express probe is proving that there’s lightning on Venus.
It’s significant because it could provide a spark of new life in primordial ooze.
The space probe found cloud-to-cloud lightning about 35 miles above the surface of the planet that has an atmosphere 100 times more dense than Earth, and about 900 degrees hotter. Venus also has clouds of sulfuric acid.
Venus is the world closest to Earth in terms of size, mass, distance and chemical makeup, but while Earth is a haven for life, Venus is typically described as hellish, with a crushing atmosphere holding choking clouds of sulfuric acid over a rocky desert surface hot enough to melt lead.
The spacecraft intriguingly found compelling evidence of lightning on the planet, even though none should exist. The clouds of Venus are like smog clouds on Earth, which do not generate lightning here.
Just as lightning alters chemistry on Earth-creating ozone and smog components such as nitrogen oxides-so too do researchers expect lightning to have profound effects on Venus.
Venus Express also focused on vast rotating vortexes of clouds at Venus’ poles. These vortexes are reminiscent of vortexes that appear over the poles on Earth in the winter of each hemisphere. Although the vortexes on Venus are larger and more energetic than Earth’s, in many respects they are quite similar, researchers said.
Venus does not have a strong magnetic field as Earth does, meaning that sunlight could then have broken up the water into hydrogen and oxygen that then easily escaped the planet’s speculative atmosphere. Scientists had seen hydrogen leaving from Venus, but now they also have seen oxygen depart.