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Space Science

New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past 118

Posted by timothy
from the now-a-respectable-middle-class-planet dept.
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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New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past

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  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:09AM (#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?
  • by Sparklepony (1088131) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:58AM (#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.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:06PM (#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.

  • by jipn4 (1367823) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:29PM (#28694247)

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

  • by onemorechip (816444) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @04:30PM (#28695755)

    It *is* being done here on Earth -- see photosynthesis. You just need a broader definition of "we".

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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