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Space Science

New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past 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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New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past

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  • by Blixinator ( 1585261 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:12AM (#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.
  • 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

  • by UseCase ( 939095 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:26AM (#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?
  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:29AM (#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.
  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:41AM (#28690995) Journal

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

  • by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:44AM (#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.
  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:46AM (#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:Venutian granite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:49AM (#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.
  • 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

  • by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:34AM (#28691689) Journal

    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).

  • 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

  • by Sparklepony ( 1088131 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:19AM (#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.
  • wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:41AM (#28692649) Homepage Journal

    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)

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @04:00PM (#28696231)
    Right, which is why the best thing to do with all the CO2 in the atmosphere is to make it into some sort of a solid carbonate. "Clean coal" dreamers claim that just injecting CO2 under the crust will make this happen on Earth - I suspect it's more complicated, but when we're already fantasizing about teraforming, the question of sequestering CO2 somehow is probably not the decisive one. Also, re. the earlier comment about the albedo: you could achieve the same effect cheaper by putting a huge solar-powered space station into the liberation point between Venus and the sun. Then you can spread out sails to block as much sun as you need until Venus gets just the perfect amount. This would be even better than Earth, because by manipulating the shade, you could control the illumination of various regions to ensure optimal weather year round.

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton