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Books, operas, comic books and casino games have been dedicated to Venus, the enigmatic upside-down planet located second from the Sun. Now, the space jockeys at NASA have Venus firmly in the crosshairs. Can the Venusian missions tell us more about a heavenly body that is similar to Earth?
Is Venus the next frontier? The answer is a resounding yes. Considering how little is known about the fiery planet and how critical it is for us to find out how it became hellishly hot and shrouded in toxic sulphuric clouds, Venus is at the coalface of space exploration.
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Mars may be the poster planet of 21st Century astronautics but Venus has finally stepped into the spotlight. The super-heated stellar body is the destination of two upcoming NASA missions – Davinci + and Veritas. The aim? To get a clearer picture of a planet that dares to be different, despite sharing striking similarities with Earth.
Why has Venus leapt to prominence after more than three decades of neglect? Our nearest planetary neighbour is similar in size, age and composition to Earth. Even its distance from the Sun is pretty much on a par with Earth in intergalactic terms. All things considered Venus should be like our verdant, habitable planet… but that is so not the case.
In reality, Venus is the perfect representation of ‘hell’. The fractured, desolate surface is devoid of water, features massive volcanic craters and has an average temperature of 475 degrees Celsius. That is hot enough to melt zinc, lead or a slew of aluminium alloys!
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If high temperatures aren’t challenging enough, the atmospheric pressure on Venus is 90 times that of Earth. Then, of course, there are dense clouds of sulphuric acid swirling around the planet, effectively obscuring the surface from long-range prying eyes!
What has caused this planetary inferno… and is it a precursor of a future Earth?
The primary cause of the super-heated planet is the massive amounts of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the Venusian atmosphere. As we all know, CO2 absorbs heat. At current levels, it has activated a devasting and uncontrollable greenhouse gas effect. Sound familiar?
What scientists are trying to find out is how and why Venus – and not Earth – experienced a massive build-up of CO2. In other words, is it normal for planets in similar orbits to Venus and Earth to develop super-dense atmospheres of CO2? Has Earth bucked the trend? Or is the worst still to come for us lot down here?
If it does get progressively hotter – and we are already experiencing extreme changes in temperature – your best bet is to stay indoors and play online casino games at Springbok Casino, with the air conditioner on full blast!
How will the upcoming missions find the answers to these questions? The role of Davinci + is simple – to drop a probe through the atmosphere in order to take samples of the component gases every 100 metres. What will that prove in the greater scheme of things?
If traces of noble gases like xenon, krypton, neon and argon are found, we may be closer to finding precisely how the Venusian atmosphere was formed. Similarly, if elements like deuterium exist in significant levels, it can indicate how much water – if any – was once on the planet.
In addition to finding clues of what an early Venus may have looked like, Davinci + is tasked with tracking down any signs of phosphine in the atmosphere. Why is phosphine so important?
Phosphine is a molecule normally associated with biological waste excreted from a living organism. The very same molecule was apparently detected in the clouds of gas by a group of earth-bound scientists. If phosphine does exist, that means there is (or was) life on Venus – as outlandish as that may sound!
The key task of the Deep Atmospheric of Venus Investigation of Noble Gas, Chemistry and Imaging – Davinci + for short – is to analyse the clouds enveloping the planet. How about Veritas? What will that un-manned spacecraft measure?
The long-winded title of the mission provides a clue – Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy. Any ideas? Well, this craft will basically scan and map the entire surface of the planet from high elevation orbit.
Its job is to provide accurate topographic measurements and transform them into a detailed and sophisticated 3D map. If all goes according to plan, mysteries like whether the volcanos are active and the surface is uniform or consists of a range of geological formations, will finally be answered. This all from a man-made probe peering through the dense toxic clouds!
That is what we do not know about Venus… quite yet. How about the stuff we do know? Here is a round-up of fascinating facts about our dazzling sibling in outer space:
If Earth was to be knocked upside down by a massive celestial body and we somehow survive the event, Springbok Casino might have to rebrand entirely as South Africans will effectively be playing casino games in Hawaii! No more Springbok as our mascot, but rather the Hawaiian monk seal… imagine.
That aside, does Venus hold the key to our very existence? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we suggest you register an account at Springbok Casino. That way, you have unrestricted access to the best bonuses and a great selection of online casino games. What more could you possibly want?