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Scientists Settle Debate: Lightning Rarely Strikes On Venus

New data from NASA's Parker Solar Probe suggests lightning is a rare occurrence on Venus, challenging previous theories.

With crushing atmospheric pressure and surface temperatures of nearly 500 degrees Celsius Venus is pretty inhospitable – but you’re unlikely to be struck by lightning, according to scientists.

A team from the University of Colorado has now declared that the phenomenon hardly ever occurs on the Sun’s closest planet.

Debate on whether lightning strikes on the planet has raged for more than 40 years but now looks as if it’s been settled once and for all.

The researchers have been studying energy pulses on Venus as observed by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe.

A team from the University of Colorado has now declared that the phenomenon hardly ever occurs on the Sun’s closest planet. PHOTO BY JOHAN DE BEER/PEXELS 

Lead author Dr. Harriet George, a magnetospheric physicist, said: “There’s been debate about lightning on Venus for more than 40 years.

“Hopefully, with our newly available data, we can help to reconcile that debate.”

Energy pulses are often referred to as “whistler waves” and are what first started this debate back in 1978.

The Parker Solar Probe will skim by Venus seven times during its mission, using these flybys to draw closer to the sun.

The data so far shows that if Venus’ whistler waves are of the same origin as those on Earth, then the planet would be experiencing roughly seven times more lightning strikes than we do.

A team from the University of Colorado has now declared that the phenomenon hardly ever occurs on the Sun’s closest planet. PHOTO BY JOHAN DE BEER/PEXELS 

Assistant Professor David Malaspina, a co-author of the new study, said: “Some scientists saw those signatures and said, ‘That could be lightning’.

“Others have said, ‘Actually, it could be something else.’ There’s been back and forth about it for decades since.”

Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters the team concluded, that any energy pulses were likely caused by disturbances in the weak magnetic fields.

This discovery was due to the direction of the whistler waves moving towards the planet rather than away from it.

Malaspina said: “They were heading backward from what everybody had been imagining for the last 40 years.”

Venus is often described as a planet of mystery due to its searing temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit and crushing atmospheric pressures that prevent any spacecraft from surviving more than a few hours on the surface.

To be able to get readings like these on the planet is therefore a rare and exciting discovery.

Malaspina believes that the findings show just how little humans know about one of our nearest neighbors.

He said: “It’s very rare that new scientific instruments make it to Venus. We don’t get a lot of chances to do this kind of interesting research.

“Parker Solar Probe is a very capable spacecraft. Everywhere it goes, it finds something new.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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