The journey of Venus over the sun is depicted by combining photos from the Solar Dynamic Observatory in the 171 wavelengths of the Venus transit. NASA/SDO
Venus’s sibling planet would not rotate if it weren’t for its soupy, fast-moving atmosphere. Instead, Venus would be imprisoned in its orbit, perpetually facing the sun as the same side of the moon always faces Earth.
Tidal locking occurs when the gravity of a massive object in space prevents a smaller one from spinning. The atmosphere, according to a UC Riverside expert, should be a more major feature in studies of Venus and other planets since it prevents this locking.
these arguments were published today in Nature Astronomy, along with descriptions of Venus as a partially tidally locked planet.
“We think of the atmosphere as a thin, almost distinct layer on top of a planet that has very little interaction with the actual globe,” said Stephen Kane, main paper author and astrophysicist at the University of California, Riverside. “Venus’ tremendous atmosphere shows us that it’s a lot more integrated aspect of the planet that influences everything, even the rate at which the planet rotates.”
The planet Venus rotates once every 243 Earth days, but its atmosphere rotates every four days. Extremely strong winds cause the atmosphere to drag over the planet’s surface as it circulates, delaying its rotation and loosening the gravity of the sun.
The torrid Venusian climate, with typical temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt lead—is exacerbated by the planet’s slow rotation.
“It’s really strange,” Kane added. “It’s a totally different sensation than being on Earth.” “Standing on Venus’s surface would be like standing at the bottom of a boiling sea.” You couldn’t even take a breath on it.”
The heat is caused by the fact that nearly all of the sun’s energy is absorbed by Venus’ atmosphere, never reaching the planet’s surface. This means that a rover equipped with solar panels, such as the one NASA deployed to Mars, would be unable to function. Venus shines brightly near the crescent moon. NASA/Bill Dunford photo
The atmosphere of Venus also prevents the sun’s energy from leaving the planet, preventing cooling of liquid water from forming on its surface, a condition known as a runaway greenhouse effect.
It’s uncertain if being partially tidally locked contributes to this runaway greenhouse state, which eventually renders a planet inhospitable for life as we know it.
It’s critical to address this subject not only for understanding Venus but also for studying the exoplanets that may be targeted for future NASA expeditions.
The majority of planets anticipated to be viewed by the James Webb Space Telescope, which was recently launched, are extremely close to their stars, even closer than Venus is to the sun. As a result, they’re more than likely to be tidally locked.
Because humans may never be able to visit exoplanets in person, it’s vital that computer models account for tidal locking’s impacts. “Venus is our chance to perfect these models so we can fully comprehend the surface conditions of planets orbiting other stars,” Kane added.
“Right now, we’re not doing a good job of contemplating this.” To interpret the features of exoplanets, we usually use Earth-like models. “Look over here!” Venus says, throwing both arms around.
Gaining a better understanding of the causes that contributed to Venus’s runaway greenhouse state, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor, can also aid improve projections of what might happen to Earth’s climate in the future.
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