A recent study submitted to Acta Astronautica examines the prospect of designing a Venus mission flight plan that would involve visiting a nearby asteroid after performing a gravity assist maneuver at Venus but prior to final contact with the planet. The study was conducted by Vladislav Zubko, who is a researcher and PhD Candidate at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) and has experience studying potential flight plans to various planetary bodies throughout the solar system.Continue reading “If You’re Going to Visit Venus, Why Not Include an Asteroid Flyby Too?”
We Now Have a Map of all 85,000 Volcanoes on Venus
A new map created with decades-old radar imagery from NASA’s 1990’s Magellan mission shows the locations of a whopping 85,000 volcanoes on Venus. The detailed map displays where the volcanoes are, how they’re clustered, and how their distributions compare with other geophysical properties of the planet such as crustal thickness.
This comprehensive study of Venus will help planetary scientists answer many outstanding questions about the planet’s geological history, such as why doesn’t it have plate tectonics like Earth? Was it ever habitable, and if so, for how long?Continue reading “We Now Have a Map of all 85,000 Volcanoes on Venus”
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The Best Way to Learn About Venus Could Be With a Fleet of Balloons
Interest in the exploration of Venus has kicked up a notch lately, especially after a contested recent discovery of phosphine, a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere. Plenty of missions to Venus have been proposed, and NASA and ESA have recently funded several. However, they are mainly orbiters, trying to peer into the planet’s interior from above. But they are challenged by having to see through dozens of kilometers of an atmosphere made up of sulfuric acid.
That same atmosphere is challenging for ground missions. While some of the recently funded missions include a component on the ground, they are missing an opportunity that isn’t afforded on many other planets in the solar system – riding along in the atmosphere. Technologists have proposed everything from simple balloons to entire floating cities – we even heard of a plan to enclose the entirety of Venus in a shell and live on the surface of that shell. But for now, balloons seem to be a more straightforward answer. That is the mission modality proposed by a team of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to discover more about something that was only confirmed to exist on Venus in the last week – volcanism.Continue reading “The Best Way to Learn About Venus Could Be With a Fleet of Balloons”
Potentially Active Volcanoes Have Been Found on Venus
Using archival radar images taken in the 1990s by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, scientists have found evidence of recent active volcanism on Venus. The images revealed a volcanic vent that changed shape and increased significantly in size over an eight-month period.
The scientists say their findings confirm long-held suspicions that the planet, which is known to have a very geologically young surface and evidence of past volcanic eruptions, is still active today.
“We made the discovery in the most likely place that there should have been new volcanism,” said Robert Herrick, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, speaking at a briefing on March 15, 2023 from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. “Extrapolating from a data set of one for an entire planet could be dangerous, but most scientists would say it’s pretty good evidence that being able to catch an eruption in an eight-month time frame means that others are taking place as well. It confirms there is modern geological activity on Venus.”Continue reading “Potentially Active Volcanoes Have Been Found on Venus”
Venus is Like an Exoplanet that’s Right Next Door
We’re lucky to have a neighbour like Venus, even though it’s totally inhospitable, wildly different from the other rocky planets, and difficult to study. Its thick atmosphere obscures its surface, and only powerful radar can penetrate it. Its extreme atmospheric pressure and high temperatures are barriers to landers or rovers.
It’s like having a mysterious exoplanet next door.Continue reading “Venus is Like an Exoplanet that’s Right Next Door”
Venus’ Outer Shell is Thinner and “Squishier” Than Previously Believed
While Earth and Venus are approximately the same size and both lose heat at about the same rate, the internal mechanisms that drive Earth’s geologic processes differ from its neighbor. It is these Venusian geologic processes that a team of researchers led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology hope to learn more about as they discuss both the cooling mechanisms of Venus and the potential processes behind it.Continue reading “Venus’ Outer Shell is Thinner and “Squishier” Than Previously Believed”
Can a Venus Lander Survive Longer Than a Few Minutes?
Sending a lander to Venus presents several huge engineering problems. Granted, we’d get a break from the nail-biting entry, descent and landing, since Venus’ atmosphere is so thick, a lander would settle gently to the surface like a stone settles in water — no sky cranes or retrorockets required.
But the rest of the endeavor is fraught with challenges. The average temperature at the surface is 455 degrees C (850 F), hot enough to melt lead. The mix of chemicals that make up the atmosphere, such as sulfuric acid, is corrosive to most metals. And the crushing atmospheric pressure is roughly equivalent to being 1,500 meters (5,000 ft) under water. These extreme environmental conditions are where metals and electronics go to die; therefore, the few Venus lander missions that have made it to the surface — like the Soviet Venera missions — only lasted two hours or less. Any future landers or rovers will need to have nearly super-hero-type characteristics to endure on the surface of Earth’s evil twin.
But there’s one additional challenge that might be close to being solved: creating batteries that can operate long enough in Venus’ hellish conditions to make a lander mission worth the effort.Continue reading “Can a Venus Lander Survive Longer Than a Few Minutes?”
Physicist encourages continuing the search for life in Venus’ atmosphere
In a recent paper accepted to Contemporary Physics, a physicist from Imperial College London uses past missions and recent findings to encourage the importance of searching for life in the atmosphere of the solar system’s most inhospitable planet, Venus. This comes as a 2020 announcement claimed to have discovered the presence of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere followed by follow-up observations from NASA’s recently-retired SOFIA aircraft in late 2022 that refuted it. Despite this, Dr. David Clements, who is a Reader in Astrophysics in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, recently told Universe Today that “there is something odd going on in the atmosphere of Venus.”Continue reading “Physicist encourages continuing the search for life in Venus’ atmosphere”
ESA’s Upcoming Mission Will Tell us if Venus is Still Volcanically Active
When it comes to planetary exploration, particularly of Venus, a big part of the story is under the surface. It’s a story that ESA’s EnVision mission was selected to tell when it gets to the planet in the 2030s. That’s because the spacecraft will include a subsurface radar sounder (SRS) to “peek under the surface” of Venus.Continue reading “ESA’s Upcoming Mission Will Tell us if Venus is Still Volcanically Active”
SOFIA Fails to Find Phosphine in the Atmosphere of Venus, But the Debate Continues
The on-again, off-again detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus appears to be off-again – for now. The latest study, based on data from the SOFIA telescope, reveals that the flying observatory didn’t see any signs of phosphine. According to the results, if there is any phosphine present in Venus’s atmosphere at all, it’s a maximum of about 0.8 parts per billion, much smaller than the initial estimate.
However, the team that made the initial detection of phosphine, which was announced in 2020, disagrees with the researchers’ interpretation of the SOFIA data.Continue reading “SOFIA Fails to Find Phosphine in the Atmosphere of Venus, But the Debate Continues”