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.