Magnetic and Atmospheric Mysteries of Venus (Spring 2018)

Venus, our closest planetary neighbour (on average), has often been referred to as ‘Earth’s twin’, and not without good reason. Venus has a similar composition to ours, is roughly the same mass and, unlike the other inner planets Mercury and Mars, has a thick atmosphere complete with complex weather patterns and even rain. There are however very stark differences that make Venus an interesting contrast to our own planet: the atmosphere, for example, is not just thick but many times thicker than Earth’s and is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide leading to a runaway greenhouse effect that makes Venus one of the hottest bodies in the solar system. The rains of Venus aren’t rains of water but of sulfuric acid and the planet is so hot that this acidic rain never even makes it to the ground before evaporating. While Earth has a strong magnetic field to deflect solar plasma and other interplanetary debris, Venus does not and is seemingly at the mercy of the solar wind. These differences make Venus a fascinating study of atmospheric conditions and for this reason, the topic of this paper is to answer the question “What and how do we know about atmospheric conditions on Venus and what challenges do these conditions pose for future missions?” It will start in the first part by exploring the mechanism by which planets generate their magnetic fields and the reasons why this mechanism doesn’t work on Venus. Then it will explore solar wind interactions with Venus’ atmosphere and the induced magnetotail resulting from these interactions and the electric wind phenomenon that contributes to atmospheric loss on Venus. In the second part it will explore how Venus manages to maintain an atmosphere far denser than that of Earth in the face of these phenomena with a specific focus on volcanic replenishment, atmospheric composition, and the surprising strength of its induced magnetic field.

By understanding conditions on Venus, we can better understand how to further study the planet, and gain an understanding of planetary evolution.


Courtesy of NASA

Considering the Factors Required to Colonize Venus (Winter 2017)

In the future a need will likely arise for a new settlement somewhere other than Earth because of overpopulation and a lack of resources. Venus is one of the closest planets to Earth and is of a similar size, density, volume, and mass, making the possibility of creating a new human settlement on Venus in the future an area worth investigation. Creating a permanent settlement elsewhere in our solar system is an extremely difficult proposition. Humans, having evolved on Earth, are naturally attuned to a very specific environment. The difference in air pressure, atmospheric composition, temperature, and exposure to radiation that we would experience on other planets would prove fatal unless accounted for. Although Venus has several deadly characteristics, in the future, there may be technology developed that will allow for human life to be sustainable on Venus. Through investigating the physical evidence from past missions and analyzing the concepts behind technology that could be developed to sustain human life in the future, we will discuss the plausibility of colonizing Venus.


Courtesy of NASA/JPL

Venus (Fall 2016)

If we look at the second closest planet to the Sun we will see an object covered with a very thick atmosphere due to a runaway greenhouse effect. These two characteristics lead to the planet in question also being the hottest in our solar system. The planet we are looking at is Venus and this information is well known. What isn’t well known is how the information from such a hellish planet was retrieved and how it helps us further understand the cause of the extreme atmosphere. After we look at some of the atmospheric characteristics of Venus we will discuss how the information was obtained and how the information found allows us to understand the characteristics of the atmosphere.


Courtesy of Wikimedia/NASA/JHUAPL/JPL

Can Venus or Mercury sustain life? (Winter 2016)

Venus and Mercury, along with Mars and Earth, are considered terrestrial planets; they are composed primarily of silicate rock and metals. These four planets are also considered the inner planets because they orbit close to the Sun, especially compared to the outer planets. These similarities often lead to Venus and Mercury being referred to as ‘Earth-like’. However, there are significant differences in the atmospheres of Venus and Mercury, as compared to Earth, which make them unsuitable for life.