Earth-like lightning occurs on Venus, scientists said today in reporting on findings of a European space probe. Cloud-to-cloud lightning takes place about 35 miles above the surface—a phenomenon long suspected but unclear to earthbound observers due to signal interference. Lightning affects atmospheric chemistry, so the findings will allow scientists to build more complete models of Venus' environment.
It’s been suspected that an electrical burst from lightning jump-started life in the primordial ooze of Earth, but scientists say Venus’ current atmosphere is too hot and dense for such a development. In its past, however, the planet might have been strikingly like ours: In addition to lightning, the space probe found evidence of since-evaporated Earth-like oceans in Venus’ past.