By Abigail O’Rourke
Just 100 years ago it was commonly believed that life was certain to be found on Venus. Because of its proximity to the sun and its size similar to that of Earth it was believed that Venus was a jungle planet inhabited by tribes who lived in peace with their surroundings much as tribes in the Amazon region.
Sadly, upon closer inspection in more recent decades, dreams of an idyllic Venusian tropical paradise were replaced by evidence of a boiling hot ball of fire. It seems that Venus has always been one giant volcano of sorts. Or has it been?
Recent Studies Have Shown
Recent studies have shown that this may not always have been the case. Climate scientists are attempting to study the climates and atmospheres of exoplanets such as Venus, Mars and others in an attempt to understand the co-interaction of plate tectonics, solar winds, and various other stresses put on planet atmospheres.
The purpose of these climate models is multi-faceted. First, we want to understand if humans are to blame for all or any of the changes taking place on earth. Second, we need to find if there were ever other examples out there that we can learn from. Finally, we need to know what our future holds and if it is possible to reverse any of the things we have caused that are negative to our home world.
How do models like these work? Are they just big guesses pulled out of hats and thrown together? No. Let’s use Venus as our example. Where would a good climate model of Venus start? At the point where Venus’s climate and atmosphere is today. Then we reverse engineer it. Climate scientists build a model of the current environment that Venus has today. Obviously this is unimaginably beyond hot and incapable of sustaining life as we are familiar with it. So scientists carefully change one factor at a time, adjusting various temperatures, gasses, elements, etc. It appears that Venus was the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect. Nearly all the climate models used allow for Venus having moderate temperatures and liquid water where life would have been sustainable for upwards of billions of years. What does this teach us?
What We Learn
Several ideas come out of this careful research. For starters, Venus’s atmosphere appears to have gotten hotter over time, causing water to evaporate and literally be trapped in the upper ozone layers. The more water evaporated, the less carbon dioxide the rocks to recycle and contain. More carbon dioxide released meant less oxygen, more evaporation, more heat, on and on in a cycle. Eventually the majority of Venus’s water became trapped in the outer layers of her atmosphere and something incredible happened. Venus lost her water. After a certain point in the heated highest layers of the atmosphere, the oxygen and hydrogen molecules split. The oxygen evaporated into space, leaving the hydrogen behind! Sadly, this is entirely possible without any life forms generating carbon dioxide. So it is quite possible that outrageous climate change can take place slowly over time with only occasional earthquakes and volcanoes to blame. That is not what we need to hear when we are already affecting the changes here on Earth.
This also leads us to wonder if perhaps Venus was inhabited and her resources were drained by her people, much as humans have done to Earth. This too could account for the climate change to have occurred. It also appears to be possible that Venus was not inhabited but was still mined to death by visitors from elsewhere. Afterall, if an uninhabited planet has resources you need, are we likely to treat it in a sustainable way? Would other visitors be just as greedy and wasteful? It’s something to think about.
These climate models teach us several things. Killer climate change is probable whether a planet is inhabited or not. It is also possible that “resource vampires" inhabit our galaxy, draining the life out of other planets for their own needs. It also leads us to an interesting question…if Venus was inhabited…where did they go? Were they enslaved by a superior race that destroyed their home? If so, are those galactic raiders still out there? Were the Venusians too under-developed or stubborn to leave until it was too late and the went extinct? OR were they smart enough to escape? If so, where did they go and who did they become? Are they among us? Or are they us? Was Earth uninhabited until the great Venusian Migration populated it? Are humans just well-established refugees from Venus? Will we ever know the truth??