3B Years Ago, Venus Might've Been Livable
Climate models suggest it was a lot like early Earth
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2016 12:19 PM CDT
The mosaic of the Venusian surface, obtained thanks to radar images from NASA's Magellan spacecraft, is seen.   (AP Photo/ESA/NASA/HO)

(Newser) – Venus is perhaps best known as "that torrid acid bath next door," as Gizmodo puts it, with toxic thunderclouds and atmospheric pressure capable of crushing bones, per Science Alert—but it might have looked very different 700 million years ago. After plugging topographic data and the hydrogen isotope ratio in Venus' atmosphere into climate models, NASA researchers say Earth's closest planet neighbor may have had an average surface temperature of 52 degrees, with a maximum temperature of 95 degrees, and liquid water oceans up to 1,700 feet deep before volcanic activity gave it a facelift 700 million years ago, reports Engadget. In other words, it may have had "the requirements for the origin of life" as far back as 3 billion years ago, a researcher tells New Scientist.

Of course this scenario depends on certain factors. If the planet spun significantly faster than it does today—spinning once on its axis every 16 Earth days, as opposed to 243—or had topography similar to Earth, it would have been much hotter, reaching a max temperature of 183 degrees, researchers write in Geophysical Research Letters. "We really need more data before we can say much more … but if you have a Venus-like world around a solar-type star with a slow rotation, it could be quite a reasonable place for life to exist, especially in the oceans," says study author Michael Way. "You get temperatures almost like Earth. That's remarkable." Researchers hope a probe might eventually find signs of water erosion near Venus' equator, which would back up the model. (This planet's surface reaches 1,000 degrees.)