With temperatures close to 750 degrees Kelvin and an atmosphere 90 times thicker than Earth’s, Venus is a planet no one would think capable of life sustenance. However, researchers believe that this inhospitable planet was actually capable of supporting life about 2.9 and 0.715 billion years ago.
The study, which has been submitted to the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says that Venus could have had oceans comparable to those in Earth, as well as moderate temperatures despite receiving 46 to 70 percent higher solar radiation than modern Earth does.
Although this is just a speculation, researchers believe that this could be true if the planet had a rotation period slower than 16 Earth days billions of years ago. Venus might have been habitable until 715 million years ago.
“Both planets [Earth and Venus] probably enjoyed warm liquid water oceans in contact with rock and with organic molecules undergoing chemical evolution in those oceans,” says the study co-author David Grinspoon from the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona in an interview with the New Scientist. “As far as we understand at present, those are the requirements for the origin of life.”
Further research is still needed. Nevertheless, the researchers hope that their theory could open up other investigations that aim to find planets that can also support life despite having different conditions than Earth’s.
Recently, other researchers found two planets 40 light years away from us that could be habitable using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Hubble Space Telescope. Named TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, the planets are as big as Earth although they do not have atmospheres rich in oxygen as found in other exoplanets.
According to researcher Nikole Lewis from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, the absence of a hydrogen-helium atmosphere increases both exoplanets’ chances for sustaining life.
The team hopes to find exoplanets with atmospheres comparable to those of Earth and Venus.