If we continue going on the path we, as humanity, chose, someday we may have to move out of the planet to look for new resources or simply run away from inevitable death. Now scientists put another key factor for choosing a new planet – electric winds. It turns out, in Venus they are so strong they might have stripped the planet of its oceans and atmosphere.
Scientists have been researching electric winds for a long time, but have never imagined they can be so harsh. Now they discovered that in Venus they are so strong they can accelerate oxygen to speeds fast enough to escape the planet’s gravity. This can strip the planet of its water as water molecules rise to the atmosphere, are broken down into hydrogen ions and heavier oxygen ions. Scientists say that Venus once had oceans of water, but they boiled away because of the temperature of 460 Centigrade. This would suggest that planet should have a lot of steam, but it does not, which made scientists wonder how it escaped the atmosphere.
At first scientists blamed solar winds, but now there is a lot of evidence proving it was probably electric winds instead. It is believed that every planet has an electric field, which can push the top layer of the atmosphere into the space. Team of scientists from NASA and UCL used NASA-SwRI-UCL electron spectrometer and discovered Venus’ electric field. Team found that this electric field is at least five times more powerful than at Earth. Scientists think, it might have something to do with how close Venus is to the Sun.
This discovery has some serious implications. Mars also was once covered with water, but it does not have it anymore. Furthermore, methods used in this study may help determine which planets near us are habitable. Dr Alex Glocer of NASA, co-author of the paper, said: “Even a weak electric wind could still play a role in water and atmospheric loss at any planet. It could act like a conveyor belt, moving ions higher in the ionosphere where other effects from the solar wind could carry them away”. It is important to take this process into account when looking for a new home planet for humanity.
Scientists will continue researching this process with other planets, such as Mars. On one hand, this process is important in determining a new habitable planet for colonization. But on the other, it may provide some interesting information about how life disappeared from some planets.