Lightning Flashes on Venus

Probe's findings have scientists wondering about life on Earth's closest neighbor
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2007 5:21 PM CST
In this photo released by the European Space Agency on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, the mosaic of the Venusian surface, obtained thanks to radar images from NASA's Magellan spacecraft, is seen. Nearby planet...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – 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.