Utah Skies: Venus And The Young Moon

Jun 16, 2021

Credit Tom Westre

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is often called the Earth’s twin sister because it is about the same size as Earth.

However, both planets are very different. Venus’ atmosphere is one hundred times thicker than the Earth’s and its surface temperature is a hot 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Venus doesn’t seem to have a life or oceans like Earth and it rotates backward. 

With a surface hot enough to melt lead the hope of finding life on its surface has faded away.

Over the past few decades, a number of missions were sent to Venus to find out why the planet was so different from Earth and to learn why it changed so radically. 

Venus seems to be a planet with a runaway greenhouse climate that traps heat. Understanding how the climate of Venus changed can provide lessons for Earth’s climate.

Some researchers believe the atmosphere of Venus could hold some forms of life. The chemical phosphine has been detected in Venus’ atmosphere. Life is one of the explanations for its source. Further study is needed. 

NASA recently announced two missions to Venus to launch between 2028 and 2030.

One mission would study Venus’ atmosphere to find out how it formed and evolved and see if it ever had an ocean.

The second mission will map the planet’s surface to see how it developed so differently from Earth. It will also study any active volcanoes. 

This will give us a new understanding of how Venus changed from being an Earthlike planet to a hothouse.

You can see Venus after sunset to the west southwest on Friday, June 11. Look for the young thin crescent moon to the lower right of Venus.