Space Weather Weather Science

There is no life on Earth’s evil twin.

The conflict between good and evil is a concept that stems from an ancient myth thousands of years ago. However, long before this idea was conceptualized, the battle between good and evil existed on a planetary scale.

In our galaxy (the Milky Way), all eight planets have unique size, characteristics and appearance. However, even though these eight planets have such distinct features, there are two planets known as twins. With luscious vegetation and more than half of the planet covered with water, Earth is the ideal planet for all living organisms. On the other hand, the planet that is strikingly similar to Earth in size, mass and composition, Venus, has temperatures upwards of 1000°F and an atmosphere 100 times thicker than Earth’s. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the planet known as the “Morning Star” is commonly referred to as Earth’s evil twin.

The Amazon in Space?

Venus’ composition and weather is a fairly new understanding though, as many scientists actually believed Earth’s evil twin possibly could have similar weather and surface features to our planet. This idea stemmed from the fact that Venus is essentially covered in clouds. Since clouds on Earth are composed of water vapor, researchers believed that there must be some sort of tropical “paradise” like lush rainforests or jungles encompassing Venus. However, this ideology came to an abrupt end when scientists learned of the hellish-hot temperatures on Venus.   To accompany these temperatures, the clouds on Venus are composed of drops of sulfuric acid.

Composition of Venus’s Bizarre Clouds

Scientists believe there are a couple of ways these sulfuric acid clouds formed. One is that these clouds were actually formed by early volcanic activity that released sulfur into the atmosphere and trapped it in the clouds. The sulfur was able to melt in the atmosphere since the melting point of sulfur is 386K and the surface temperature on Venus is about 750K. The other way is through photo dissociation (breakup) of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and atomic oxygen. Since atomic oxygen is highly reactive, when it reacts with sulfur dioxide, it results in sulfur trioxide, which can combine with water vapor to create sulfuric acid.

Although these clouds have a much different composition than water vapor clouds on Earth, the sulfuric acid clouds surrounding Venus do precipitate. Sulfuric rain falls from the atmosphere of Venus, however does not reach the surface due to the extreme heat that evaporates the rain and forms clouds again. This sulfuric rain is much different from acidic rain on Earth since Earth’s acid rain is water with small amounts of sulfuric and nitric acid and Venus’s acidic rain is composed entirely of sulfuric acid.

Due to its extremely close proximity to the sun and interesting atmospheric features, Venus’s weather has been long debated among scientists. But since we now know Earth has an evil sibling, it’s fair to say we lucked out.