Rare molecule on Venus may help explain planet's weather
Scientists may have found a clue in gaining a better understanding of Venus' runaway greenhouse effect
Venus has been called a planet with a runaway greenhouse effect. Astronomers haven't been able to understand the driving mechanism behind the process, but new research may change that.
Venus has the ability to trap a lot of heat. Its thick clouds push temperatures to a sweltering 470 C, making it the hottest planet in our solar system.
The key is ultraviolet (UV) light. Since the 1970s, scientists have known that the second planet out from the sun absorbs a particular frequency of UV light, but were unclear as to what was absorbing that light.
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A new study from the American Geophysical Union suggests the culprit is likely disulfur dioxide, a molecule that isn't found on Earth.
There hasn't been any conclusive evidence that this rare gas exists on Venus. However, scientists had theorized that it could be created under the particular circumstances.
Researchers involved in the study used a model that concluded the molecule may be found in the planet's clouds. If that's the case, it would contribute to Venus's searing temperatures, as it would absorb the UV rays, in turn trapping that heat in the upper atmosphere.
As of now, the explanation is merely a theory. In order to determine whether or not the theory is accurate, there would need to be a future mission to Venus in order to measure the compounds in the clouds.