Double Venus missions: all the burning questions NASA hopes to answer



Did Venus ever have an ocean?The brief answer is: we don’t know. But the noble gases in Venus’ environment — helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon — may inform a narrative about water on the planet, and the way shortly it might have disappeared.As a part of DAVINCI+’s mission, the spacecraft will drop a sphere by Venus’ environment to measure these non-reactive gases. Based on what it finds, completely different ranges of noble gases may assist scientists flesh out their concepts about Venus’ previous habitability and evolution.“Noble gases and their isotopes — and the abundance of those isotopes — give you a very clear indication of the interior properties of the planet,” Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist at NC State University, advised The Planetary Society. “The idea is that if you’re able to measure the noble gas abundance and ratios of these different isotopes, you can draw indirect — but critical — information.”DAVINCI+’s investigation into Venus’ noble gases will increase a number of questions. How a lot water would possibly Venus have began out with? How a lot of that water could have evaporated into the planet’s environment? Was Venus enveloped in magma, even in its early days? Or may some cataclysmic occasion have precipitated the planet’s carbon dioxide to escape into the environment, triggering a greenhouse impact?We’ll have to wait and see what DAVINCI+ and VERITAS dig up.What’s up with Venus’ volcanoes?Despite being a really outdated planet, Venus is comparatively younger on the exterior. Maps created by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft counsel that about 500 million years in the past, the planet underwent some kind of “resurfacing” that modified its exterior.So what’s the secret to Venus’ youthful glow after 4.5 billion years? It could possibly be volcanoes, however we will’t make certain. Although there’s proof that volcanism has performed an vital function in Venus’ previous, we all know surprisingly little about current volcanic exercise on the planet. In reality, lively volcanism on Venus has by no means been instantly imaged.This is one space the place DAVINCI+ and VERITAS will probably be important. They’ll tie collectively the story of Venus’ volcanoes, its noble gases and probably, its watery previous. VERITAS specifically will analyze the planet’s infrared floor emissions to seek for indicators of previous or current volcanic exercise. The mission will even catalog completely different rock varieties, which may level to extra proof of current or lively volcanoes.“A massive question is: was there some sort of catastrophic event, or more ongoing, steady volcanism that was more Earth-like?” NASA astronomer Sue Smrekar, VERITAS’ principal investigator, advised The Planetary Society. “We’ll be able to determine what’s in the bottom of 80% of the craters which have dark floors. Is it volcanism?”Smrekar and her group will even seek for indicators of lively volcanoes spewing out water. Such a discovery may utterly change our understanding of Venus’ inside.“There’s this old idea that Venus’ interior is dry,” Smrekar stated. “But Venus appears to be less outgassed than the Earth. It could have more water in its interior than Earth.”Where are Venus’ tectonic plates?Venus is stuffed with unusual little surprises; regardless of being peppered with volcanoes, it doesn’t seem to have plate tectonics.On Earth, lighter tectonic plates shift beneath heavier ones in a course of often known as subduction, influencing each earthquakes and volcanoes. So how can Venus have so many volcanoes if it doesn’t have one among the key elements to creating them?Both DAVINCI+ and VERITAS will probe this query, however DAVINCI+ will take the first-ever high-resolution photographs of a few of the planet’s most fascinating options: closely deformed areas referred to as tesserae.



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