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NASA: ‘Electric Wind’ Can Strip Earth-like Planets of Oceans, Atmospheres

By  //  Jun 20, 2016


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ABOVE VIDEO: The space sourroundings around a world plays a pivotal purpose in last what molecules exist in a atmosphere — and either a world is habitable for life. New NASA investigate shows that a electric fields around Venus helped frame a atmosphere of a components indispensable to make water. (NASA Video)

(NASA) – Venus has an “electric wind” clever adequate to mislay a components of H2O from a top atmosphere, that competence have played a poignant purpose in stripping Earth’s twin world of a oceans, according to new formula from ESA’s (European Space Agency) Venus Express goal by NASA-funded researchers.

“It’s amazing, shocking,” pronounced Glyn Collinson, a scientist during NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“We never dreamt an electric breeze could be so absolute that it can siphon oxygen right out of an atmosphere into space. This is something that has to be on a checklist when we go looking for habitable planets around other stars.” Collinson is lead author of a paper about this investigate published Jun 20, 2016, in a biography Geophysical Research Letters.

Venus is in many ways a many like Earth in terms of a distance and gravity, and there’s justification that it once had oceans value of H2O in a apart past.

However, with aspect temperatures around 860 F (460 C), any oceans would have prolonged given boiled divided to steam and Venus is uninhabitable today. Yet Venus’ thick atmosphere, about 100 times a vigour of Earth’s, has 10,000 to 100,000 times reduction H2O than Earth’s atmosphere. Something had to mislay all that steam, and a tide meditative is that most of a early steam dissociated to hydrogen and oxygen: a light hydrogen escaped, while a oxygen oxidized rocks over billions of years.

Also a solar breeze — a million-mile-per-hour tide of electrically conducting gas floating from a object — could have solemnly though certainly eroded a residue of an ocean’s value of oxygen and H2O from Venus’ top atmosphere.

“We found that a electric wind, that people suspicion was only one tiny spoke in a large machine, is in fact this large beast that’s means of sucking a H2O from Venus by itself,” pronounced Collinson.


This striking compares aspect temperatures and sobriety on Earth and Venus. The dual planets are identical sizes and have identical sobriety — though Venus is bone dry and some-more than 10 times as prohibited as a home planet. Recent NASA investigate describes a pivotal routine that removes H2O from a Venusian atmosphere. (NASA Image)

Just as each world has a sobriety field, it is believed that each world with an atmosphere is also surrounded by a diseased electric field. While a force of sobriety is perplexing to reason a atmosphere on a planet, a electric force (the same force that sticks washing together in a drier and pushes electricity by wires) can assistance to pull a top layers of a atmosphere off into space.

At Venus, a most faster hydrogen escapes easily, though this electric margin is so clever that it can accelerate even a heavier electrically charged member of H2O — oxygen ions — to speeds quick adequate to shun a planet’s gravity.

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When H2O molecules arise into a top atmosphere, object breaks a H2O into hydrogen and oxygen ions, that are afterwards carried divided by a electric field.

“If we were hapless adequate to be an oxygen ion in a top atmosphere of Venus afterwards we have won a terrible, terrible lottery,” pronounced Collinson.

“You and all your ion friends will be dragged off kicking and screaming into space by an invisible hand, and zero can save you.”

The group detected Venus’ electric margin regulating a nucleus spectrometer, a member of a ASPERA-4 instrument, aboard a ESA Venus Express. They were monitoring electrons issuing out of a top atmosphere when it was beheld that these electrons were not evading during their approaching speeds. The group satisfied that these electrons had been tugged on by Venus’ manly electric field.

By measuring a change in speed, a group was means to magnitude a strength of a field, anticipating it to be most stronger than anyone had expected, and during slightest 5 times some-more absolute than during Earth.

“We don’t unequivocally know because it is so most stronger during Venus than Earth,” pronounced Collinson, “but, we consider it competence have something to do with Venus being closer to a sun, and a ultraviolet object being twice as bright. It’s a severe thing to magnitude and even during Earth to date all we have are top boundary on how clever it competence be.”


This striking compares a windy combination and electric margin strength on Earth and Venus. New investigate suggests that a electric margin around Venus competence be a pivotal cause in moulding what molecules exist in a Venusian atmosphere — including a miss of a molecules indispensable to make water. (NASA Image)

Such information also helps us know other worlds around a solar system.

Andrew Coates

Andrew Coates

“We’ve been investigate a electrons issuing divided from Titan [a moon of Saturn] and Mars as good as from Venus, and a ions they drag divided to space,” pronounced Andrew Coates, who leads a nucleus spectrometer group during University College London in a U.K.

“The new outcome here shows that a electric margin powering this shun is surprisingly clever during Venus compared to a other objects. This will assistance us know how this concept routine works.”

Another world where a electric breeze competence play an critical purpose is Mars. NASA’s MAVEN goal is now orbiting Mars to establish what caused a Red Planet to remove most of a atmosphere and water. “We are actively sport for Mars’ electric breeze with MAVEN’s full arsenal of systematic instruments,” pronounced Collinson.

“MAVEN is a robotic investigator on this four-billion-year-old poser of where a atmosphere and oceans went, and a electric breeze has prolonged been a primary suspect.”

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Taking a electric breeze into comment will also assistance astronomers urge estimates of a distance and plcae of habitable zones around other stars. These are areas where a heat could concede glass H2O to exist on a aspect of visitor worlds, creation them places where life competence be found.

Some stars evacuate some-more ultraviolet light than a sun, so if this creates stronger electric winds in any planets orbiting them, a habitable section around such stars competence be over divided and narrower than thought.

Alex Glocer

Alex Glocer

“Even a diseased electric breeze could still play a purpose in H2O and windy detriment during any planet,” pronounced Alex Glocer of NASA Goddard, a co-author on a paper.

“It could act like a circuit belt, relocating ions aloft in a ionosphere where other effects from a solar breeze could lift them away.”

ESA’s Venus Express was launched on Nov. 9, 2005, to investigate a formidable atmosphere of Venus. The nucleus spectrometer was built by a Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and is led by University College London.

The booster orbited Venus between 2006 and Dec 2014. After a successful goal that distant exceeded a designed life, a booster tired a fuel supply and burnt adult on entrance into Venus’ unenlightened atmosphere. The investigate was saved by NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) goal and NASA’s Solar System Workings program.

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