Venus once possibly habitable, study suggests | Science News

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Venus once possibly habitable, study suggests

Critics question assumptions in analysis of harsh planet’s past

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11:25am, August 26, 2016
Venus

HOT SPOT Venus, seen in this radar map from the Magellan spacecraft, might have once been habitable, new simulations suggest.

Venus might have once been prime real estate. New computer simulations suggest that the hellish planet next door could have been habitable in the not-too-distant past, with moderate temperatures, plenty of seaside locales and even a few spots for skiing.

Modern Venus is harsh: sulfuric acid rain, crushing atmospheric pressure and a surface temperature around 460° Celsius. But if Venus maintained its glacial rotation rate for much of its history — one day lasts roughly 116 Earth days — then the average temperature could have been around 15° C as recently as 715 million years ago. The findings were published online August 11 in Geophysical Research Letters.

“This is a very speculative, hypothetical paper,” says Mark Bullock, a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. It doesn’t prove that Venus was habitable, he says,

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