At first glance, it makes no sense: Venus is the planet with the highest temperatures in the solar system (about 460ºC, with few variations between day and night), an atmospheric pressure 93 times higher than Earth’s and clouds of carbon dioxide, carbon and rain of sulfuric acid. And yet, it could be our home in the future. That is the conclusion of a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and led by Mattias Green.
According to the authors, Venus was a very different place, with a colder atmosphere and liquid oceans on its surface. There was also a greater variation of temperatures between day or night, something that is attributed to its atmosphere and a slow rotation: what takes Earth almost 24 hours, that is to say one day, on Venus requires about 243 days, the time needed to complete a rotation on its axis.
For some time, astronomers have suspected that Venus could have turned faster, which would have been a key factor in being able to withstand a liquid ocean on its surface (and possibly even life). As for the cause of this, the most accepted theory was that a massive impact influenced the rotation of Venus.
But Green’s team proposed a different option: what if the oceans were responsible for the oceans of Venus? Simply put, the tides would have acted as a brake on the rotation of the planet due to the friction generated between the tidal currents and the seabed.
To quantify how much the oceans could have slowed Venus, Green’s team conducted a series of simulations. The team simulated what Venus would look like with oceans of varying depth and a rotation period that ranged between 243 and 64 days. What they discovered was that ocean tides would have been enough to reduce speed up to 72 Earth days every million years.
Since it was this reduction in the speed of rotation that caused the oceans of Venus to evaporate, which led to the greenhouse effect, this disruption deprived Venus of its habitability.
This study could help recognize future strategies for Venus to recover its oceans, significantly reduce the greenhouse effect and give us an alternative to a possibly habitable planet.
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