Venus is the closest planet to Earth and while there are similarities, the differences are far greater between the two. Venus’ surface temperature is capable of melting most common metals, has a crushing atmosphere, and a rocky landscape lorded over by clouds of sulfuric acid. It is far from Earth’s hospital to life environment.
Lead study author Dima Bolmatov, a theoretical physicist at Cornell University, detailed his and his colleagues’ findings in the Aug. 21 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
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Venus: Oceans of carbon dioxide
Researchers in the past suggest that Venus may not have always been so inhospitable. Scientists have theorized that Venus may have once had enough water to cover the planet with an ocean or oceans nearly 80 feet deep. However, the aforementioned study suggests that Venus may have had different oceans altogether, oceans made up of liquid carbon dioxide.
“Presently, the atmosphere of Venus is mostly carbon dioxide, 96.5 percent by volume,” said Bolmatov.
Carbon Dioxide, while generally thought of as a greenhouse gas on Earth, is capable of existing as a solid, liquid or a gas. It can also reach a “supercritical” state given the right temperature and pressure conditions where it exhibits the properties of both a liquid and a gas.
Carbon Dioxide – Supercritical matter
Researchers still have many questions regarding supercritical substances but in computer simulations Bolmatov and his fellow researchers found that the shifts in supercritical matter can be dramatic with changing temperatures and pressure levels.
While the surface pressure of Venus is nearly 100 times that of Earth, it’s believed it could have been has much as 25 times this in the past. Given that, carbon dioxide in liquid form is not a stretch.
“This in turn makes it plausible that geological features on Venus like rift valleys, riverlike beds, and plains are the fingerprints of near-surface activity of liquidlike supercritical carbon dioxide,” Bolmatov told Space.com following the publishing of their findings.