In many ways, Venus is the most similar planet to Earth. Not only are its size and gravity comparable to Earth’s, but there’s evidence that Venus once had lots of water – oceans’ worth! – in the distant past. So what happened?
New NASA-funded research using data from ESA’s Venus Express reveal that it may have been Venus’ electric field that stripped the planet of water. Venus’ electric field is about 5-10 times stronger than Earth’s. That electric force is enough to rip particles – including the building blocks of water – out of Venus’ atmosphere. Over time, this “electric wind” could leave a watery planet bone-dry, making it a key factor in whether or not a planet is hospitable to life. Understanding this process will help scientists pinpoint where potentially habitable planets could be lurking around other stars.