Was Venus the First Habitable World of our Solar System?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Was Venus the first habitable world of our solar system?.

Present-day Venus is an inhospitable place with surface temperatures approaching 750K and an atmosphere over 90 times as thick as present day Earth’s. Billions of years ago the picture may have been very different.

We have created a suite of 3D climate simulations using topographic data from the Magellan mission, solar spectral irradiance estimates for 2.9 and 0.715 billion years ago, present day Venus orbital parameters, an ocean volume consistent with current theory and measurements, and an atmospheric composition estimated for early Venus. Using these parameters we find that such a world could have had moderate temperatures if Venus had a rotation period slower than about 16 Earth days, despite an incident solar flux 46-70% higher than modern Earth receives.

At its current rotation period of 243 days, Venus’s climate could have remained habitable until at least 715 million years ago if it hosted a shallow primordial ocean. These results demonstrate the vital role that rotation and topography play in understanding the climatic history of exoplanetary Venus-like worlds being discovered in the present epoch.


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    I can already picture Andy Weir — The Venerian! (Of, relating to, or characteristic of the planet Venus) It practically writes itself…

  2. Isegoria says:

    I had the same thought, that an Andy Weir novel about settling Venus would be an obvious next step — only I assumed it would be called The Venusian.

  3. Weltanschauung says:

    Most of the planetary divinities have well-known adjectives ending in “al”: jovial, mercurial, martial. The inhabitants, as soon as there are any, will be Jovians, Mercurians, and of course Martians.

    In the same way, inhabitants of Venus will be Venereans.

  4. Kudzu Bob says:

    Our sci-fi fantasies of ancient Martian canals and abandoned cities built by an extinct race have been cruelly taken from us, but it is pleasing to imagine that maybe, just maybe, Venus really did once possess steaming jungles inhabited by terrifying reptilian creatures.

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