UCL News


A closeup look at Earth's evil twin; scientists will probe the secrets of the greenhouse effect on Venus

8 November 2005

Europe's first space mission to the planet Venus will shed new light on the greenhouse effect here on Earth, scientists say.

The Venus Express spacecraft, scheduled for launch Monday, is intended to improve understanding of the intense greenhouse effect that's heating Venus.

Scientists involved in the $300-million mission said studying the extreme environment of Venus will help climate researchers make better predictions about global warming caused by changes to our own atmosphere.

…The Venus Express probe, which is due to be launched from the Russian cosmodrome of Baikonaur, will take nearly six months to travel the 26 million miles to its final destination.

…Instruments on board have been designed to explore the outer atmosphere of Venus, which is being constantly degraded by the solar wind blowing at a million miles per hour, said Andrew Coates, a planetary scientist at University College London.

"Venus had developed in quite a different way to Earth and, in many respects, can be regarded as an evil twin," Coates said.

Unlike the Earth, which is protected by its own magnetic field, Venus has no magnetosphere to act as a shield against the solar wind, which is why its atmosphere is being constantly degraded, he said.

"We're going to be looking at the escape of material from the top of the atmosphere of Venus," Coates added.

Steve Connor, 'The Independent', 22 October 2005