Photo credit: Lebanon Express

Venus might not be habitable because Jupiter altered its orbit.

Venus used to be similar to Earth, and if Jupiter hadn’t changed its orbit around the sun, it might have been habitable, according to researchers.

Due to this, Jupiter moving near and then away from the sun in its early arrangement, the planet’s large gravitational pull killed off Venus’ potentially Earth-like environment, the authors of a study reported in the Planetary Science Journal found.

Venus is the second nearest planet to the sun, and presently has a surface temperature of about 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius) which is higher the melting point of lead, according to NASA. This is hotter than Mercury, despite Mercury being closer to the sun.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) announced that Jupiter’s movement likely launched Venus’ chance as a hostile planet.

“As Jupiter migrated, Venus would have gone through dramatic changes in climate, heating up then cooling off and increasingly losing its water into the atmosphere,” said Stephen Kane, UCR astrobiologist, in a statement Wednesday.

“One of the interesting things about the Venus of today is that its orbit is almost perfectly circular,” added Kane, who led the study.

“With this project, I wanted to explore whether the orbit has always been circular and if not, what are the implications of that?”

Researchers developed a prototype of the solar system to comprehend how each planet’s orbit influenced each other.

A planet’s orbit is assessed between zero and one. The nearer to zero, the more circular the orbit, whilst an orbit of one — which is not circular at all — wouldn’t even be able to achieve an orbit around a star and would instead launch into space, Kane said.

Researchers discovered that, when Jupiter was nearer to the sun around a billion years ago, Venus had an orbit of 0.3, implying that there was a greater likelihood that the planet was habitable.

Nonetheless, as Jupiter moved, it propelled Venus too near to the sun, where it would have sustained a significant alteration in climate, causing its current orbit to be around 0.006 — the most circular out of any planet.

Because of Jupiter’s large size, it is able to disrupt the orbits of neighbouring planets; it has a mass that is two-and-a-half-times bigger than all of the other planets in the solar system joined together.

A research published last year discovered that Venus likely retained steady temperatures and hosted liquid water for billions of years prior to an incident that activated intense changes in the planet. Now, it is a dead planet with a lethal atmosphere 90 times thicker than Earth’s.

Kane thinks it is logical that the gas could depict “the last surviving species on a planet that went through a dramatic change in its environment.”

Nonetheless, this is uncertain, he said, because those microbes would have required to adapt in Venus’ sulfuric acid clouds for a billion years after the planet lost liquid water on its surface.

“There are probably a lot of other processes that could produce the gas that haven’t yet been explored,” Kane said.

“I focus on the differences between Venus and Earth, and what went wrong for Venus, so we can gain insight into how the Earth is habitable, and what we can do to shepherd this planet as best we can,” Kane said.

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