An artist’s impression of Venus in a more temperate era when water may have been present on the surface. Image: NASA
Hellish Venus is as hot as a commercial pizza oven with surface temperatures averaging around 460 degrees Celsius (860 Fahrenheit), far too hot for water or life as it’s known on Earth to exist. But a new study indicates the cloud-shrouded planet may have been a much more temperate – and possibly habitable – world until relatively recent times.
A dramatic transformation starting roughly 700 million years ago resurfaced 80 percent of the planet and triggered a runaway greenhouse effect. But in the two to three billion years leading up to that transformation, computer simulations show Venus could have maintained stable temperatures between 50 C and 20 C (122 and 68 F).
“Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years,” said Michael Way of the Goddard Institute for Space Science. “It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today.”
While Venus currently receives almost twice as much solar radiation as Earth, “in all the scenarios we have ...