Since more and more data shows that Venus formerly resembled Earth, despite being known for its hellish environment, unbearably thin atmosphere, and hostile climate, it has remained the focus of human attention.
In a new research, space physicists at the University of Colorado Boulder have presented convincing evidence that, in contrast to long-standing scientific arguments, lightning may not regularly occur on Venus.
The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, explores the secrets of one of our solar system’s most hostile worlds. Venus, the nearest planetary neighbour to Earth, is distinguished by a thick, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere that creates an uncontrollable greenhouse effect. No spacecraft has ever been able to endure the planet’s harsh circumstances, which include temperatures that may exceed 900 degrees Fahrenheit and oppressive air pressures, on its surface for a lengthy period of time.
The scientists used NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which was deployed in 2018, to study this hostile planet. Even though the probe’s primary objectives were to research the solar corona and solar wind, a flyby of Venus in February 2021 yielded insightful information about the planet.
Numerous “whistler waves” were found by the probe; these energy bursts are frequently connected to lightning on Earth. The team’s investigation, however, showed that these whistler waves may not have been caused by lightning but rather by alterations in Venus’s flimsy magnetic fields.
This result is consistent with a research conducted in 2021 and directed by Marc Pulupa of the University of California, Berkeley, which was unable to identify radio waves produced by lightning strikes on Venus.
Venus and lightning have been a topic of discussion since 1978, when NASA’s Pioneer Venus mission discovered whistler waves above the planet’s surface. Some scientists speculate that Venus could see lightning strikes seven times more frequently than Earth since lightning commonly produces similar waves on Earth. The most recent research, however, refutes this notion.
In contrast to the outward propagation predicted from a lightning storm, the whistler waves from Venus appeared to be flowing downhill towards the planet, which caught the attention of experts. The research team hypothesises that these waves may come from a phenomena known as magnetic reconnection, in which the tangled magnetic field lines that encircle Venus suddenly split apart and reconnected with explosive effects.
More information will be gathered by the team in order to definitively exclude lightning as the origin of these whistler waves. In November 2024, when the Parker Solar Probe makes its final trip by Venus and descends to a height of fewer than 250 miles over the planet’s surface, they will have another chance.