Venus Has a Turbulent and Inhospitable Atmosphere, And Jupiter May be Responsible

Solar system. Image for representation. Credit: Canva

Solar system. Image for representation. Credit: Canva

It is now believed that Jupiter might have fundamentally reformed Venus’s orbits, leading to an enormous loss of water reserves.

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  • Last Updated: October 1, 2020, 6:22 PM IST


Venus is known to have a rather drastic weathers and turbulent atmosphere. But what causes this extreme climate? Jupiter is the answer, as per claims in a new study.

The evening star may owe this extreme atmosphere to Jupiter, most probably during an ancient run-in with the gas giant. It is now believed that Jupiter might have fundamentally reformed Venus’s orbits, leading to an enormous loss of water reserves.

Since the galaxy is huge, it may appear as if the distant planets are completely isolated from one another. However, they don’t exist in complete isolation, everything in space is affected by something in its vicinity. Most importantly, gravity. The gravitational influence of one planet over another in its neighbouring orbit is substantial. The current cosmic dance, which seems to be in a stable state of rhythm, has been caused by billions of years of gravitational forces moulding the solar system.

While Venus is called Earth’s twin due to similar size and mass, the atmosphere makes it drastically different than our home. It’s dense, super dense. According to the new study, this state happened because of Jupiter’s migration in a very distant past.

Stephen Kane, an astrobiologist at the University of California, led this study. The team created computerised models of our solar system to simulate planetary positions. Subsequently, they analysed how their varying gravitational forces could influence each other’s orbits.

“One of the interesting things about the Venus of today is that its orbit is almost perfectly circular,” said Kane. He further questioned whether it was always circular or not; if not, why?

The roundness of a planet’s orbit is measured between 0 to 1, with 0 being completely circular, 1 being a straight-line path that would slingshot the planet further into space. Venus has the most circular orbit in the Milky Way with eccentricity value at 0.0006.

The model suggested Jupiter orbited much closer to the sun, 1 billion years ago. At this time, Venus had an eccentricity value of 0.3. the team suggests this could have made Venus a hospitable planet.

Something happened, Jupiter moved away. Its Herculean gravity must have affected Venus and forced it into a less eccentric orbit. Simultaneously, the planets would have heated each other with tidal heating. All of this, the team argues, caused our twin planet to evolve into the inhospitable planet and lose most of its water.

The study was published in Planetary Science Journal.

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