Venus hides a secret: this is how life could end on Earth

The answer to the question of how life could end on Earth may be hidden on Venus. New missions want to investigate whether the planet in the past was more "livable"

Venus is one of the most fascinating planets and, in many ways, also among the most similar to Earth. After the first observations in the '70s and '80s, however, space missions have somewhat abandoned it to point to the more distant Mars. The fault would be the bad atmosphere that surrounds the second planet of the solar system. A toxic hell made to 96.5% of carbon dioxide, whose temperature is about 470 ° C. However, according to the latest hypotheses put forward by scientists, Venus in the past may have been very different from today, much closer to our full.

New missions and studies on how life on Earth could end

Venus is a large, rocky world right next to Earth, much closer than Mars. Optimal alignment for launches happens frequently and it takes much less time to get there than the Red Planet. There is currently the Japanese space agency's Akatsuki orbiter that has been operating on Venus for at least five years and is focused on the climatic atmosphere. However, the surface of this planet is not visible from space because it is surrounded by a dense and dark atmosphere. Compared to the Moon and Mars, on Venus you can not land because, in terms of pressure, it would be like being a kilometer deep in the sea and, in addition, it rains acid.

The associate professor of Planetary Sciences at North Carolina State University, Paul Byrne, explained to Focus that, however, in the orbit of Venus you can stay without problems and is the only place in the solar system that we know, with an environment similar to that of the Earth in terms of temperature and pressure with 0 ° C. The new interest in the second planet of the solar system, in fact, aims to answer a number of questions, the main one is: Venus could have been like the Earth in the past but then an uncontrolled greenhouse effect has reduced it to the current hellish conditions? If so, could life on Earth end up as it did on Venus? Answering this question could, in fact, help to predict the future of our planet.

The three missions in departure DAVINCI+ and Veritas of NASA and EnVision of Esa, have precisely the objective of helping to investigate why a planet so similar in size, structure, age and orbit to Earth, is instead so different. During the expeditions it will be possible to have very high resolution photographs of Venus and perhaps it will be possible to collect a sample from the ground to be analyzed to understand if there has ever been water on the planet (and possibly even some form of life).

In the NASA missions on Venus, also Italy will play a role with the contribution of the Italian Space Agency and the Sapienza University.

Stefania Bernardini