Is Venus the new Mars?

Mount Holyoke’s Darby Dyar looks to Venus, rather than Mars, for clues about why planets become habitable.

By Christian Feuerstein

Momentum is building in the scientific community to explore Venus. The planet has been long neglected for study in favor of Mars, Earth’s other nearby neighbor.  

Venus is now coming into the spotlight in hopes that it could reveal what makes a planet habitable. While today Venus is inhospitable to life, with surface temperatures of more than 400 degrees Celsius and clouds of sulfuric acid blowing through the sky, it was once Earth’s twin in terms of size, density and chemical makeup.

Recent research has even suggested that Venus could have looked like Earth for three billion years, with vast oceans that could have been friendly to life.

“That’s what sets my imagination on fire,” said Darby Dyar, professor of astronomy at Mount Holyoke College, in an article in Nature. “If that’s the case, there was plenty of time for evolution to kick into action.”

She continued, “Why are we investing so much time looking for life on Mars when it only had liquid water for 400 million years? And then there’s Venus with three billion years of water and no one loves her.”

Read the article.

Related News

Nancy Welker smiling into the camera, wearing a blazer, a turtleneck and a large green necklace

Nancy Welker ’63 on her 55 years in physics

Nancy Welker ’63 credits her pioneering success in a male-dominated science field to her time studying at Mount Holyoke College.  

M. Darby Dyar looking into the camera and speaking with a VERITAS polo shirt on

NASA selects Venus mission

Mount Holyoke astronomer Darby Dyar is among the planetary scientists who will lead NASA’s new mission to explore the surface of Earth’s fiery twin.

M. Darby Dyar looking into the camera and speaking with a VERITAS polo shirt on


NASA has selected new missions to explore Venus, including one led by M. Darby Dyar, Mount Holyoke professor of astronomy. 

Benjamin Gebre-Medhin

Toward more equitable admissions

Mount Holyoke professor’s research finds that college admissions essays are even more strongly linked to socioeconomic status than test scores.

Kuzivakwashe Madungwe

Meet the class of 2021: Kuzivakwashe Madungwe

 “Playing squash challenged me to push myself beyond what I thought I could achieve as an athlete. The whole student-athlete experience has been amazing.” 

Find more stories >