Venus isn’t our twin!

“You are not looking at a twin [Venus] to the Earth at all. There are very many substantial differences, ..the differences are so great it makes you wonder whether you could ever produce a twin of the Earth in some other solar system when you can’t do it in your own.”
– S. Ross Taylor, Venus: a twin planet?

Artist's impression of Venus Express

Artist's impression of Venus Express, now orbiting Venus. Credit: ESA

The following excerpts are from a report by Robin McKie in the Observer, April 9:

This week a European spacecraft will arrive for a date with Venus, our closest planetary neighbour. Scientists hope the mission, made on a shoestring budget, will reveal vital lessons on how unchecked greenhouse gases can turn a world into a blistering Hades. Venus Express – will study the planet’s acid clouds, searing heat, crushingly dense atmosphere and hurricanes to find out why Earth’s nearest neighbour has become a place of insufferable heat and poison. ‘Venus is very like Earth in that it is the same size and has an orbit round the Sun close to ours,’ said David Southwood, head of science at the ESA. ‘Yet Venus went wrong. We did not. We want to find out why Venus became our evil twin.’

Venus and Earth are almost identical in size. In addition, both orbit the Sun in ‘the Goldilocks zone’, a swath of space in which conditions are considered by astronomers as being not too hot and not too cold to prevent the evolution of life. Venus should make ideal planetary real estate, in other words. Yet it is the solar system’s most inhospitable planet. …the planet’s principal problem – from a human point of view – lies with its greenhouse effect, scientists now realise. Venus’s thick atmosphere traps solar radiation and heats the world to boiling point. Prospects of finding life here have since been rated – not surprisingly – as vanishingly low, and astronomers’ keenness to study Venus has waned.

Comment: Science is evidence based. However, our beliefs filter what is acceptable as evidence. The scientists involved bring to this mission a number of unwavering beliefs and assumptions that jeopardize their inquiry from the very outset. Their keenness to study Venus would benefit from a broader view. The first assumption has become an idée fixe: that Venus is a twin of the Earth – that they are the same age and have a similar history. This unproven notion has become a ‘fact’ by consensus of opinion and incessant repetition. The astronomer V. Axel Firsoff remarked;

“…my impression has been that much of what Thomas Kuhn has called ‘normal science’ has degenerated into mindless support of orthodoxy and the so-called ‘consensus of opinion’, which is arrived at by a process of one scientist repeating what another has said in a kind of mirror-gallery regression for the fear of falling out with his (or her) colleagues. In the end nobody seems to know how this ‘consensus’ has originated, but anything that is out of step is ruthlessly suppressed.”

However, most of the greatest discoveries in history came about because an individual broke with the consensus. In 1950, years before the space age, Immanuel Velikovsky concluded from his extensive interdisciplinary research that the planet Venus was remembered from the time of the dawn of civilization as a brilliant cometary body. He concluded in his best-selling book, Worlds in Collision, that:

“The night side of Venus radiates heat because Venus is hot. The reflecting, absorbing, insulating and conducting properties of the cloud layer of Venus modify the heating effect of the sun upon the body of the planet; but at the bottom of the problem lies this fact: Venus gives off heat.”

Here we had two cherished beliefs being demolished at once – that something the size of a planet could be a comet, and that Venus recently had a different orbit. Velikovsky was “ruthlessly suppressed.” Although later findings from space probes supported his conclusion, they made no difference to the consensus opinion.

Astronomers minimized the importance of Velikovsky’s remarkable claim or simply dismissed it as a ‘lucky guess’, although one noted scholar acknowledged at the time that Velikovsky had a remarkable record of successful predictions and no failures. The discovery that Venus was almost red hot made it imperative for scientists to invent an explanation. The result was the “enhanced” or “runaway” greenhouse effect. Rupert Wildt originally proposed the greenhouse theory more than 60 years ago. He predicted that Venus would be warmer than the Earth by a few tens of degrees Celsius due to the trapping of infrared radiation in the planet’s lower atmosphere. After the Venera and Mariner probes to Venus showed how unearthly are the temperatures there, Carl Sagan proposed the “enhanced greenhouse effect” in 1960. This was followed by a “runaway greenhouse effect” postulated by S. I. Rasool and C. de Bergh in 1970. According to James Pollack, for the enhanced greenhouse effect to work, a vital 0.1 per cent water vapour as well as 0.02 per cent sulphur dioxide and some unspecified heat absorbing particles in the clouds are required in addition to 96 per cent carbon dioxide in the Venusian atmosphere.

The fact is that Venus is an unearthly planet. As Dr. Ross Taylor says, Venus is not a twin of the Earth at all. It simply doesn’t fit the consensus view. And if the view about ‘twinship’ is mistaken, then the theory about common origins is questionable. What if the idea of an uneventful history of the solar system is merely a comforting fiction? We can’t assume that the Earth and Venus were ‘born’ at the same time and have existed peacefully, for the most part, where we now find them. We cannot be sure what the Sun has done in the past. Differences between the two planets cannot be attributed to small causes growing gradually into a large effect over aeons. It makes a nice story but it is unlikely, wishful thinking. Time spans of billions of years appeals to armchair theorists and computer modelers who can extrapolate present conditions backwards in time – providing a pretence of scientific rigor. The pretence comes about because the theorists and modelers ignore the acknowledgement by orbital experts that the many bodies of the solar system are subject to chaotic motion if gravity is the only force at work.

That sweeps the rug from under the second assumption – that we know the origin and history of the solar system. Sure, we have an elaborate and unsubstantiated theory, which appears convincing from endless repetition as ‘fact.’ But that theory ignores many inconvenient facts and difficulties. It cannot explain the countless differences between the planets. We have no evidence that Venus was born at the same time as the Earth, or that the two planets have always occupied their present orbits. In our hubris, we choose to ignore mankind’s early obsessions with the odd appearance and behavior of the planets. The accounts make plain that the planet Venus was the archetypal comet. It was the unnatural ‘fire-breathing dragon’ in the sky. These facts are simply ignored by modern science. It messes up their neat story. But if we allow all human testimony of the planets to speak for itself, we find that Venus has a quite different history from that of the Earth. Comparisons with the Earth will lead nowhere. Nothing “went wrong” on Venus or “went right” on Earth. The two planets are not the same age and are only distantly related. There is no message for us from the study of Venus for an imagined evolution of Earth’s climate into a hothouse.

That brings us to the assumption that the infernal heat of Venus is due to a greenhouse effect. That could only be so if we ignore everything we know about greenhouses. “The much ballyhooed greenhouse effect of Venus’s carbon dioxide atmosphere can account for only part of the heating and evidence for other heating mechanisms is now in a turmoil,” confirmed Richard Kerr in Science magazine in 1980. Nothing has changed since then. The greenhouse theory does not explain the even surface temperatures from the equator to the poles: “atmospheric temperature and pressure in most of the atmosphere (99 percent of it) are almost identical everywhere on Venus – at the equator, at high latitudes, and in both the planet’s day and night hemispheres. This, in turn, means the Venus weather machine is very efficient in distributing heat evenly,” suggested NASA News in April 1979. Firsoff pointed out the fallacy of the last statement:

“To say that the vigorous circulation (of the atmosphere) smooths out the temperature differences will not do, for, firstly, if these differences were smoothed out the flow would stop and, secondly, an effect cannot be its own cause. We are thus left with an unresolved contradiction.”

In another paper, Firsoff argues that Venus’s high albedo results in the absorption of less solar energy than does the more transparent atmosphere of the Earth.

“Increasing the mass of the atmosphere may intensify the greenhouse effect, but it must also reduce the proportion of solar energy reaching the surface, while the total of the available energy must be distributed over a larger mass and volume. Indeed, if the atmosphere of Venus amounts to 75 air-masses, as is assumed by Rasool and de Bergh, the amount of solar energy per unit mass of this will be about 0.01 of that available on the Earth. Such an atmosphere would be strictly comparable to our seas and remain stone-cold, unless the internal heat of Venus were able to keep it at temperatures corresponding to the brightness temperatures derived from the microwave emission.”

The extraordinary high temperature of Venus was perhaps one of Velikovsky’s most outrageous and successful predictions. In his “Challenge to Conventional Views in Science” delivered at the symposium, “Velikovsky’s Challenge to Science,” held in San Francisco on February 25, 1974, under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Velikovsky said:

“I may have even caused retardation in the development of science by making some opponents cling to their unacceptable views only because such views may contradict Velikovsky — like sticking to the completely unsupportable hypothesis of greenhouse effect as the cause of Venus’ heat, even in violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.”

The second law of thermodynamics is a general principle, which places constraints upon the direction of heat transfer. To maintain the high surface temperature of Venus there should be no net flow of heat through the atmosphere. However, when the Pioneer Venus probes looked at the amount of radiant energy passing through the atmosphere, each one found more energy being radiated up from the lower atmosphere than enters it as sunlight. And, if this were not enough, the night probe site was shown to be about 2K warmer than it was at the day probe site. The Russian probes, Vega 1 and 2, also “recorded a pronounced upward radiation flux.” These findings simply show that Venus’ surface is hot and still cooling.

Velikovsky may have overstated his case (and mistakenly created a false historical context), based on ancient reports of Venus appearing as brilliantly incandescent as the Sun. That brilliance, like that of the Sun, may have had a predominantly electrical origin. Coal-dark comet nuclei are known to exhibit a star-like brilliance when discharging strongly. However, powerful electric currents flowing in the crust of a cometary Venus would generate heat near the surface very effectively.


“It’s very disturbing that we do not understand the climate on a planet that is so much like the Earth,” said Professor Fred Taylor, a planetary scientist based at Oxford University and one of the ESA’s chief advisers for the Venus Express mission. “It is telling us that we really don’t understand the Earth. We have ended up with a lot of mysteries.”

Comment:Taylor’s confession is refreshingly candid. However, such confessions of ignorance from astronomers and planetary scientists never seem to result in questioning fundamental theoretical assumptions. For example, the most violent winds in the solar system are found on the most distant planet – Neptune. It shouts to us that the driving energy of weather systems is not simply radiant solar heating. Of course, internal heat is invoked. But that doesn’t explain the ferocious upper atmosphere winds. On Venus, surface winds are less than walking pace. However, the upper winds speed about the planet in four days, while the planet rotates backwards in 243 days. Such atmospheric ‘super-rotation’ is a mystery. It is telling us we don’t understand weather on any planet. This fact should give pause to those who think they know that ‘global warming’ of the Earth is a fact and that human activity is responsible.

Such puzzles are recent, however. Throughout history, Venus has simply been seen as the heavenly embodiment of a deity. Intriguingly, this was invariably a female one. For example, the Babylonians, Ancient Greeks and Romans all linked it with their goddesses of love. Venus was later revealed to be a planet, one that was assumed to be more or less the same as Earth. Only its permanent cloud covering prevented astronomers from working out the details of these similarities. Even in the Fifties, popular science books depicted a mist-shrouded world either of deserts or of swamps and ferns. A few more fanciful versions had dinosaur-like creatures lumbering about in the background.

Then the first robot spacecraft – built by Russia and the US – reached Venus and sent back data that astounded astronomers. The planet [atmosphere] was unbelievably hot, dense, and had virtually no oxygen. Russia tried landing probes on the surface. All were crushed flat by the atmosphere’s incredible pressure. ‘On Earth, atmospheric pressure is one ton per square foot,’ said Taylor. ‘On Venus, it is 100 tons.’

Earth’s sister was also found to have a surface temperature of 450C and a covering of thick clouds of sulphuric acid. As a vision of Hades, it could hardly be beaten. On top of these disturbing discoveries, scientists also found that a day on Venus – the time the planet takes to make one full rotation – is the equivalent of 243 days on Earth. By contrast, a Venusian year – the time it takes to make one revolution of the Sun – is a mere 225 days. Thus, on Venus a day is longer than a year. The planet also rotates on its axis in the opposite direction to the Earth, so the Sun – if it could be seen through the Stygian gloom beneath its thick cloud – would appear to rise in the west and set in the east.

Comment: This recital of the unearthly features of Venus should be sufficient to dispel any idea that the planet is a twin of the Earth. The offhand classical ‘goddess’ reference exposes the ignorant and dismissive attitude of astronomers toward ancient stories about the planetary gods. It is this failing that allowed Velikovsky to brazenly walk through a doorway in their hallowed halls they never noticed. Ancient stories about the planets were never before examined critically or forensically. It suited theoretical astronomers to assume that the planets always moved like clockwork and to regard early reports about planetary gods and their celestial power struggles as fantasy.

The clue to the feminine attribute of Venus is found in the descriptions of the planet’s long, flowing cometary ‘hair.’ Venus was described as a ‘hairy star,’ a ‘star that smoked’ and as ‘a stupendous prodigy in the sky.’ So it is significant that one of the earliest space-age discoveries about Venus was its “cometary magnetotail,” in the form of invisible “stringy things,” or plasma current filaments, stretching as far as the Earth’s orbit. A power surge in those filaments today would cause them to glow, and Venus would form a ‘stupendous’ cometary apparition in the sky. The forensic evidence would stand up in court, showing that Venus was a comet within human memory. Therefore, the solar system must have a far more lively history than the “once upon a time, long, long ago” story we have been taught. And we should not forget the ambivalent attitude of the ancients toward Venus. Not only was she the beautiful goddess of love, but also her alter ego was Medusa the Gorgon, with her (cometary) hair of writhing snakes and petrifying countenance. She was also the demonic witch, riding her broomstick (comet) across the sky.

How can a planet be a comet? The answer is simple once we acknowledge that a comet is an electrical plasma discharge phenomenon, independent of the size of the comet nucleus. In the nineteenth century, astronomers believed space was a vacuum that could not carry electric currents. In the space age, astronomers found that space is not empty, it is an electrically conducting plasma environment. So the argument was inverted: because plasma is a near perfect conductor, voltage differences could not be sustained between objects in space. This naïve view persists today.

However, the pioneers of plasma science knew, for example, that a negatively charged body in diffuse neutral plasma draws positively charged particles toward it, leaving behind an outer sheath of negatively charged particles. The electric field between the separated charges forms a stable ‘double layer,’ which has across it most of the voltage difference between the body and the space plasma. The ‘double-layer’ serves to form an insulating sheath, or ‘plasmasphere,’ so that there is no electrical interaction with other charged bodies, so long as their plasma sheaths do not touch. The ‘magnetospheres’ of planets are actually cometary plasmaspheres, which happen to trap a magnetic field inside. The Sun also sits at the focus of its plasmasphere. Within each plasmasphere the electric field is weak, but any body on an eccentric cometary orbit encounters a rapidly changing plasma voltage as it races toward or away from the Sun. The comet deals with this situation by discharging in the characteristic form of plasmasphere glow and cathode jets. (There is no sensible conventional explanation for comet jets or their huge coma.) The jets curve away from the Sun to form the familiar comet tails.

Venus

In the electrical model of the solar system, any body on a sufficiently eccentric orbit about the Sun will exhibit cometary features. For ancient people to have seen Venus as an Earth-threatening comet, Venus must have had an eccentric orbit that brought the planet near to Earth. Electrical discharging heated the crust of the planet and created the filamentary electrical scars wreathed about it. Lightning occurring in a high-pressure gas causes this filamentary “Lichtenberg” pattern. At low atmospheric pressures, cratering is more common – as we see on the Moon. The lack of craters on Venus led planetary scientists to conclude conventionally that the surface is very young. If Venus were as old as the Earth, it required a recent volcanic overturning of the entire Venusian crust.

Such an unlikely and ad hoc event is unnecessary in the electrical model. The emerging sciences of plasma cosmology and the ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® provide the mechanism by which rocky planets like Venus are born from the core of a dwarf star or gas giant undergoing electrical and/or dynamical stress. When a planet is born, it discharges fiercely to its parent in its new electrical environment. Venus is a newborn planet with a heavy atmosphere still shedding its natal heat. It also suffered electric crustal heating in encounters with the plasmaspheres of other planets and in exchange for orbital energy in the Sun’s electric field.

So we watch with great interest the data coming back from the Venus Express spacecraft. Already, in the first images from Venus, we find confirmation of an earlier prediction. On February 5, 2005, in explaining the mysterious north polar vortex on Venus, I wrote:

“…we should expect to see evidence of the twisted pair configuration at the poles of Venus, if the input current is sufficiently strong and this model is correct.” “The Venusian polar dipole shows the precise configuration and motion of Birkeland current pairs in plasma discharge experiments. That includes a surrounding spiral vortex.”

Professor Taylor had written earlier about the Venusian north polar vortex:

“the absence of viable theories which can be tested, or in this case any theory at all, leaves us uncomfortably in doubt as to our basic ability to understand even gross features of planetary atmospheric circulations.”

So there was no reason, other than an appeal to symmetry, for scientists to expect a similar vortex at the south pole of Venus.

The south pole of Venus

Credits: ESA/INAF-IASF, Rome, Italy, and Observatoire de Paris, France ESA's Venus Express has returned the first-ever images of the hothouse planet's south pole from a distance of 206,452 kilometres, showing surprisingly clear structures and unexpected detail. The images were taken on April 12 during the spacecraft's initial capture orbit after successful arrival on April 11, 2006. Captured by the Virtis (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) and Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) onboard Europe's Venus Express probe, the image shows a "vortex" over the hothouse planet's south pole.

Mission scientists are already intrigued by a dark “vortex” feature, which can be clearly seen in one image. The false-colour VIRTIS composite image shows Venus’s dayside at left and nightside at right, and corresponds to a scale of 50 kms per pixel. The day half is a composite of images taken via wavelength filters and chiefly shows sunlight reflected from the tops of clouds, down to a height of about 65 km above the planet’s surface. The more spectacular night half, shown in reddish false color, was taken via an IR filter at a wavelength of 1.7 microns, and chiefly shows dynamic spiral cloud structures in the lower atmosphere, around 55 km altitude. The darker regions correspond to thicker cloud cover, while the brighter regions correspond to thinner cloud cover, allowing hot thermal radiation from lower down to be imaged.

Venusian vortex explained

The above diagram shows the main characteristics of the Venusian north polar dipole. The diameter of the collar is about 5000 km. Credit: F. W. Taylor. Composite image: W. Thornhill.

Venus Express science team members say they want to know how these vortices remain stable and where they get their energy. This goes to the heart of what drives the super-rotating upper atmosphere of Venus. So I repeat and expand here some of the closing comments from my Feb 5, 2005 article.

Venus, as shown by its cometary magnetosphere (plasmasphere), is still discharging strongly to the solar plasma. The enhanced infrared emission seen from the polar dipole is due to the dissipation of electrical energy in the upper atmosphere of Venus. The polar dipole has a variable rotation rate and it varies the position of its axis of rotation with respect to that of the planet. It was observed to move 500 km from the Venusian pole in less than a day and return just as quickly. The variable nature of the electrical input to Venus via the Sun and the snaking about of the Birkeland currents explain both these characteristics.

Of particular interest are the linear filaments sometimes seen connecting the opposite sides of the hot spots. Taylor writes:

“It is virtually impossible, even with complete license, to begin to speculate in any detail as to what mechanism could give rise to such a curious effect.”

The answer, in the ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® model is simple. They are a feature seen in simulations of the behavior between two converging Birkeland current filaments where plasma becomes trapped in the elliptical core between them.

Spiral galaxies are the grandest cosmic plasma discharge phenomena in the universe. The Venusian polar dipole exhibits the same morphology as the early stages of development of a spiral galaxy from the interaction of two intergalactic Birkeland current streams. And that includes a filamentary connection between the two current “hot spots” in the manner observed on Venus. The enormous scalability of plasma phenomena allow for such a comparison.


The report concludes:

Yet several tantalising questions remain unanswered about our strange planetary neighbour and, as technology has progressed, instruments that can probe the planet through its thick cloud veil have been developed. ‘You can think of this mission as the Return to the Forgotten Planet,’ added McCoy. ‘We are going back to find answers to questions that are a lot more important to Earth today than they were 30 years ago.’

In particular, scientists want to understand how Venus became the victim of its greenhouse effect. ‘Venus is the queen of the greenhouse,’ said Dimitri Titov, a mission scientist for Venus Express. ‘On Earth our atmosphere traps a little heat, and keeps us nice and warm. Morning on Earth would be freezing cold if it was not for our greenhouse warming, which adds about 40C to average temperatures. But on Venus it adds several hundred degrees.

It is not simply that our wayward sister gets more solar radiation than Earth, scientists stress. Yes, it is closer to the Sun, but the energy differential is not that great. Something else is involved – and the obvious candidate is carbon dioxide. Venus’s thick atmosphere is almost entirely made of CO2, which is known to be highly effectively at trapping and holding the Sun’s heat. Hence Earth’s impending climate crisis as man-made emissions build up in our atmosphere.

Comment: As we saw earlier, carbon dioxide is insufficient to create a greenhouse effect that will raise the surface temperature of Venus to that of molten lead. This argument cannot be used to suggest an impending climate crisis on Earth. The Sun, in its response to the local galactic electrical environment, controls our climate. Human activity on Earth is insignificant in comparison.

But why has Venus got so much carbon dioxide? ‘The answer may be that it lost its water some time in the remote past,’ said Taylor. ‘On Earth, carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans, where it forms carbonate minerals and over the millennia is deposited as rock. That process was arrested early on Venus when it lost its oceans.’ In other words, it was Earth – not Venus – that changed. Billions of years ago both had thick atmospheres of carbon dioxide but, thanks to our oceans, which continue to absorb the gas, we lost ours. Venus – with no oceans – kept its carbon dioxide. ‘We should not be too complacent,’ added Taylor. ‘As temperatures rise, seas become less and less able to hold on to carbon dioxide. Soon they will absorb less of the gas and may eventually start to give it off. That will have a very serious impact on our planet.’

Comment: Here we see assumption heaped upon assumption coming to a conclusion that is entirely unjustified. The conventional histories of both planets and their atmospheres are completely speculative. On the other hand, see Titan – A Rosetta Stone for early Earth? for an outline of the recent histories of both planets.

As to the cause of the disappearance of Venus’s water, a key theory – to be tested by Venus Express – centres on the idea that the planet’s upper atmosphere is battered by solar storms. Without a magnetic field like Earth’s to protect it from these solar particles, water vapour was lost to space. Essentially the planet’s oceans boiled dry.

Comment: I answered this question “why doesn’t Venus have much water?” in Cassini’s Homecoming in June 2004:

“When performing comparisons, we must allow for the fact that the Venusian atmosphere is being modified continually by electric discharge activity on the surface of that planet. It has increased the carbon dioxide content of the Venusian atmosphere at the expense of nitrogen and water vapor. Scientists think that most of Venus’ water must have split into hydrogen and oxygen and all the hydrogen was lost to space. But if so, where is the oxygen that was left behind? The four Pioneer probe craft didn’t find it in the atmosphere. The answer is that it has combined with carbon monoxide to form a heavy atmosphere of carbon dioxide. The process I envisage is this:

“Venus probably began with an atmosphere more like Titan’s and the Earth’s, where nitrogen dominates, and with more water. It suggests that Saturn must have considerable nitrogen at depth in its atmosphere. The icy rings and satellites of Saturn and abundant water on Earth also point to water on Saturn. On the Venusian surface, nitrogen molecules are converted to carbon monoxide molecules by a catalytic surface nuclear reaction in the presence of red-hot iron. The brilliant French chemist, Louis Kervran, when investigating carbon monoxide poisoning of welders, discovered this surprising nuclear transformation. The carbon monoxide reacts at the hot surface of Venus with water vapor to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. It is a well-known industrial process. The hydrogen produced escapes from Venus. This process explains the puzzling discovery made by Venus landers that the water vapor concentration diminished as they approached the Venusian surface. [It also explains the steady stream of hydrogen escaping from the top of Venus’s atmosphere at present and the ‘phenomenally high’ proportion of ‘heavy hydrogen’ (deuterium) in its atmosphere.] A purely chemical approach to the puzzles of the Venusian atmosphere is not likely to work.”

[The report again:]

And there is the question of those sulphuric acid clouds. Accounting for these takes more effort, though again scientists believe they have answers. Venus is assumed to be highly volcanic and is frequently racked by massive eruptions that vent vast amounts of material into the atmosphere, with sulphur a key component. Mixed with other gases, this falls as gentle sulphuric acid drizzle.

‘We can see volcanoes on Venus from the radar images sent back by previous probes,’ said Taylor. ‘But these do not show if there are plumes of ash coming out or if molten lava is streaming down the sides of their calderas, so we don’t know if the volcanoes of Venus are active. However, the infra-red detectors on Venus Express will show up features like that. Then we can start to understand Venusian volcanoes and the planet’s internal structure.’ In the end, however, it will be Venus Express’s studies of the planet’s runaway greenhouse effect that will dominate the probe’s research activities.

Comment: Most of the ‘volcanoes’ on Venus are electrical scars. That may be why no obvious lava flows occurred during the Magellan Orbiter radar surveillance of the planet. A steady fall in sulfur dioxide levels detected by the Pioneer Orbiter over a time span of several years may have been due to a giant volcano erupting shortly before. But it also possible that another simple nuclear reaction is taking place at the surface of Venus, involving the combination of the two atoms of oxygen in an oxygen molecule to form one atom of sulfur. It is a process occurring today in plain view on Jupiter’s moon, Io. In any case, volcanoes are an electric discharge phenomenon so that the discovery of active volcanoes on Venus cannot be used as a distinguishing test for or against the electrical model of Venus.

‘The Apollo mission had a huge impact on people in the Sixties,’ said Taylor. ‘For the first time, we could see Earth from distant space. You could see how small and finite it was. That affected people’s thinking about the world.

‘Venus should now have a similar impact on the public imagination,’ he added. ‘We are going to see – graphically – what happens when greenhouse heating runs out of control on a planet. That should concentrate a lot of minds.’

Comment: It is hard to imagine what evidence would be accepted as falsifying the belief in the conventional history of the solar system, other than the entry of another dwarf star into the Sun’s electrical domain. Good science requires that a theory make specific predictions that can be tested. So much the better if the claims are unusual. Almost every space probe is launched with the promise that it will unlock the secrets of the solar system. Yet astronomers are always surprised by their discoveries. The nebular theory of solar system formation has turned out to be hopelessly non-predictive. Under these circumstances, it is rational and scientific to question the assumptions that underpin the theory and to consider alternatives. That is not done. It seems we are dealing with irrational beliefs. Like biblical exegesis, the scripture remains untouched while the interpretation is adjusted to fit new, discordant data. And there is no more discordant astronomical data than the infernal heat of Venus.

Believing the greenhouse effect is responsible for the high temperature of Venus will ensure that any conclusions drawn will be wrong. Believing that Venus is a twin of the Earth will ensure the continuance of a fictional history of both planets. I look forward to Venus Express providing more information to one day blow the roof off the greenhouse.

Wal Thornhill

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