Dec 30, 2014 04:50 PM EST
As NASA contemplates sending man to Venus, to live in a floating civilization above the hostile burning surface, new research reveals that while current surface temperatures soar above a bone-ashing 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures may have once supported some sort of liquid on the surface-but you won't be able to guess what it is.
With surface temperatures hot enough to liquefy lead, and turn water into vapor in the blink of an eye, our other neighbor on the cosmic block, Venus, has long been out of the running for hosting human life. But a new study lead by theoretical physicist at Cornell University, Dima Bolmatov reveals that Venus may have once been covered in oceans about 80 feet deep. However, instead of being seas of water, it's though that the bizarre oceans were filled with the most abundant substance the planet has-carbon dioxide.
Yes, while oceans of liquid carbon dioxide are unfathomable here on Earth, where carbon dioxide is known to sublimate quickly from solid to liquid at room temperature, researchers believe the greenhouse gas known to trap heat may have been a contributing factor to Venus' current hellish surface conditions.
While not common on Earth or under many conditions, carbon dioxide has been known at certain temperatures and pressures, to enter a "supercritical" state where it can behave as both a liquid and a gas. Dissolving materials like a liquid, yet flowing like a gas, it is this supercritical CO2 that researchers believe may have once filled Venus' desolate basins, especially after simulating the surface of ancient Venus with computer models. With current atmospheric pressures 90 times that of Earth, even in its early years of only been dozens of times greater, molecular computer-generated models confirmed for Bolmatov and his team that CO2 in such a supercritical state could very well have existed even hundreds of millions of years ago.
"Presently, the atmosphere of Venus is mostly carbon dioxide, 96.5 percent by volume" Bolmatov says. "This in turn makes it plausible that geological features on Venus, like rift valleys, river-like beds, and plains are the fingerprints of near-surface activity of liquidlike supercritical carbon dioxide."
Bolmatov went on to say that the supercritical carbon dioxide on Venus may have looked like soap bubbles filling the vast oceans-"Bubbles of gas that are covered by a thick layer of liquid."
The findings were presented in the latest issue of the journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, and Bolmatov's team hopes to conduct experiments to better detect shifts from gas-like to liquid-like properties in supercritical CO2.
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