Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Venus Express begins to unravel the mysteries of the fog-enwrapped planet

Following numerous functional checks, the European Space Agency’s orbiter spacecraft Venus Express began exploring Venus last week. Venus is the most mysterious planet of the solar system. Venus Express is the first spacecraft launched to Venus in the last 15 years. The ESA scientists collaborated with Russian scientists to build two out of seven scientific instruments on board the spacecraft. By means of Venus Express, scientists hope to solve some mysteries of the “planet of love” at least, and will probably try to obtain forecasts with regard to the future of Earth and our civilization. The ESA’s orbiter spacecraft should stay in orbit until the end of 2007.

Mystery No1

Why humans live on Earth and do not live on Venus

On the face of it, the planet Earth and Venus, otherwise known as the Morning Star, are quite similar to each other as to their size and mass. Both the planets are approximately 4.5 billion years old. Both of them have the atmosphere. Despite the fact that Venus revolves around the Sun at a distance that is 40 million kilometers shorter than that between Earth and the Sun, the amount of heat poured on both the planets by the Sun is comparable. At first sight Venus seems as fit for the emergence of life as Earth does. One theory says that millions of years ago the planet had oceans. However, no life forms came into existence on Venus. Because of the powerful greenhouse effect, the temperatures are presently running hot on Venus, at around 500 degrees Celsius. It is even hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.

Could it be that a highly-developed civilization existed on Venus millions in days of old? The civilization on Venus might have been obliterated by the very kind of a global catastrophe that is about to hit our planet i.e. the long-term heating of the atmosphere resulting from the absorption of energy from the sun by certain gases in the atmosphere mostly due to industrial emissions. The process is irreversible, and therefore all life forms face doom and destruction.

The orbiter spacecraft Venus Express should help scientists find out the reasons why the neighboring planet is so badly affected by the greenhouse effect.

Mystery No 2

Venus spins on its axis in a wrong way

In comparison with the other planets of the solar system, Venus turns around its axis in an opposite direction. The Sun goes up in the west and sets in the east on Venus. The Morning Star had been thought to be the only planet revolving that way until the discovery of a similar phenomenon on Uranium. It remains to be seen why the two planets behave like that.

The two most basic theories have to do with a giant meteorite collision and some incomprehensible processes in the nuclei of the planets.

Mystery No 3

One day lasts longer than a year

This mystery rests on the fact that Venus spins on its axis very slow while revolving too fast around the Sun. One day on Venus equals 244 days on the planet Earth. On the other hand, Venus’s period of revolution around the Sun is just 224.7 days.

Not unlike in the case of the greenhouse effect, some theories maintain the day on Venus used to be considerably shorter in the past. But later the spinning of the planet around its axis slowed down for some reasons. Perhaps a key to the riddle lies in the other phenomenon discovered by Venus Express while approaching the planet’s orbit.

Mystery N 4

Is it full or empty?

The images obtained by Venus Express show a giant black hanging above the South Pole of the planet. It looks like mighty atmospheric whirlwinds go twisting through the vortex and disappear somewhere deep down below the surface of Venus. In other words, Venus is as hollow as Earth, which too has openings on its poles. Those seeking a more detailed and picturesque description of the phenomenon are kindly recommended to read Plutonia by Vladimir Obruchev and The manuscript found in a bottle by Edgar Allan Poe. Besides, the images of the vortex somewhat resembled the mysterious charts drawn by Gerhardus Mercator, the 16th century Flemish cartographer and geographer. The charts show four streams of the ocean hurtle down into the abyss after converging in the vicinity of the North Pole.

Mystery No 5

Is there life on Venus?

Scientists are confident that any life form on Venus is out of the question because its mean surface temperatures are usually about 500 degrees Celsius and its pressure exceeds that on Earth by 90 times. However, there is still a possibility of detecting life forms in the atmosphere of Venus, at an altitude of about 50 kilometers above the surface. It is not so hot out there, approximately 70 degrees Celsius, and the pressure is similar to that in Earth. There is even some water vapor in Venus’s atmosphere at such an altitude. According to doctor of biology Alexei Topunov at the Institute of Biochemistry in Moscow, and U.S. researchers Dirk Schultz-Makuh and Luis Irvine at the University of Texas, the above environment is quite possible. To back the theory with some legitimate evidence, Dr. Topunov points out to microorganisms found at the mouths of the earth’s underwater volcanoes. Having processed the data obtained by the Soviet probes Venera and Vega, the Americans detected carbonyl sulfide in the atmosphere of Venus. It is very difficult to produce the above gas from an inorganic source, and therefore it can be regarded an indirect sign of bioorganic activity. The research of Venus has also indicated that ultraviolet radiation virtually fades away in the atmosphere starting from 50-70 kilometers downward, as if the planet is wrapped in some sort of a screen that absorbs that part of the spectrum. Therefore, scientists put forward a theory featuring microbes that populate the atmosphere at high altitudes. Not unlike plants and herbs using sunlight as energy during photosynthesis, it is thought the microbes use ultraviolet and microorganisms for carrying out some processes.

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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