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What caused Earth’s “twin” to become a volcanic hell?

Venus as we know her has changed. Volcanism has caused a massive change in its climate. Image Courtesy: NASA

Venus was very similar to Earth. The planets are often called twins – they are similar in size, mass and gravity. It also has an atmosphere with clouds. But now a lot has changed on Venus; its once humid and temperate climate has become acidic.

So what happened here?

Read also: Explained: Why a mission to send humans to Venus is not easy

The Death of Venus

According to a research paper published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), volcanism could change the planet as we know it. Volcanic activity lasting hundreds to thousands of centuries and the eruption of massive amounts of material may have turned it into an acidic greenhouse.

Vocalism of this magnitude lasts for hundreds of thousands of years, spewing about 100,000 cubic miles of rock to the surface. That amount of molten rock is enough to cover all of Texas for half a mile deep, according to the study.

It is insanely hot on Venus; the temperature is 464 degrees Celsius, which can even melt lead. There is a crushing pressure of 90 atmospheres beneath the dense clouds of carbon dioxide mixed with corrosive sulfuric acid, reports The scorching temperatures are the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. It doesn’t help that Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth – 40 million kilometers closer to be precise – and therefore receives more heat.

According to reports, Venus was not always so hot and could have had a more temperate climate – somewhat similar to Earth’s. The NASA study argues that volcanic activity on Venus could have caused its death by heat, as massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas, were released into Venus’ atmosphere. the planet. Today, more than 80% of its surface is covered with solidified volcanic rock.

Venus is dead What caused Earth's twin to become a volcanic inferno

Vast fields of solidified volcanic rock now cover 80% of the planet’s surface. Image Courtesy: NASA

An inhospitable world

The “great igneous provinces” on Venus were created over a million years ago. The lava that spread over hundreds of thousands of square miles likely released so much carbon dioxide that it became difficult for the climate to adapt.

“All the oceans would have boiled, adding moisture to the atmosphere, and because water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, accelerating the runaway greenhouse effect. Over time, the water would have been lost to space, but the carbon dioxide and the inhospitable world remained,” says a report on

The “great ingenious provinces” are not found only on Venus. Millions of years ago, they caused several mass extinctions on Earth, which the document talks about.

“Large-scale volcanism has played a critical role in the Earth’s long-term habitability. Contrary to widely held belief, volcanism, rather than impactors, has had the greatest influence and carries most of the responsibility for large-scale mass extinction events throughout Earth’s history,” the report states.

Earth versus Venus

Earth is said to have experienced five mass extinctions caused by eruptions that produced “large igneous provinces”. These events, which took place 540 million years ago, wiped out 50% of life on the planet. However, the disruptions to the climate caused by this volcanic activity did not lead to runaway greenhouse activity as in the case of Venus.

Now scientists are trying to figure out why the events on Earth weren’t big enough to cause the same magnitude of damage as on Venus.

“By understanding the record of large igneous provinces on Earth and Venus, we can determine whether these events may have caused the current state of Venus,” said Dr. Michael J Way of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and author principal of the study.

NASA’s next mission to Venus is scheduled to launch in 2027 and 2029 – the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gas, Chemistry and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission and the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission. They aim to study in detail the origin, history and current state of Venus.

The DAVINCI mission will precede VERITAS, which will investigate the surface and interior of the planet.

“One of DAVINCI’s main goals is to reduce the history of water on Venus and when it may have disappeared, providing better insight into how Venus’s climate has changed over time.” , said Way.

Scientists hope the data from both missions will help them understand how Venus went from humid and temperate to dry and sweltering. They also believe they can understand how vocalism has affected life on Earth in the past and what dangers it holds in the future.

With contributions from agencies

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