Venus used to be a planet not too different from ours, and if Jupiter hadn’t offset its orbit around the sun, it could have still been able to host life, researchers say.
Jupiter, the giant planet in our solar system, moved closer and then farther from the sun during its formation. A study from the Planetary Science Journal says the planet’s intense gravitational pull killed Venus’s life-hosting potential.
Venus is the second nearest planet to the sun, and now it has a surface temperature of approximately 880 degrees (471 degrees Celsius) above the melting point of lead, NASA says. That is hotter than Mercury, though Mercury is closer to the sun.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) claim that Jupiter’s movement likely sped up Venus’ fate as an inhospitable planet.
Stephen Kane, UCR astrobiologist, stated:
“As Jupiter migrated, Venus would have gone through dramatic climate changes, heating up, then cooling off and increasingly losing its water into the atmosphere.”
“One of the interesting things about the Venus of today is that its orbit is almost perfectly circular,” he added.
He said that the researchers are looking to determine whether the orbit of the planet was always circular, and, if not, what are the reasons it isn’t so.
A planet’s orbit is measured on a scale between zero and one.
The closer to zero, the more rounded it is.
An orbit with the value of one is not circular at all. According to Kane, a space object with an orbit equal to one wouldn’t be able to orbit around a star without launching into space.
Researchers discovered that, when Jupiter was closer to the sun approximately a billion years ago, Venus’ orbit was 0.3, making it potentially habitable.
However, as Jupiter migrated, it pushed Venus too close to the sun, undergoing a significant climate change, changing its orbit into about 0.006 or about the most circular out of all solar system planets.