Scorching hot Venus can be cold enough for snow

Image of Venus from Venus Express showing the terminator along which the colder atmospheric layer was discovered.
Credit: ESA / MPS, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany

When you think of Venus, the image that comes to mind is that of a sweltering hot hell-hole, which is basically true. With temperatures on the surface hot enough to melt lead and crushing atmospheric pressure, it is not the kind of place you’d want to take a vacation.

But now scientists have found an unusual anomaly, a region of Venus’ atmosphere that is the opposite of this. About 125 kilometres (78 miles) above the surface, there is a layer in the atmosphere which is approximately -175˚ C (-283˚ F). That is cold enough that carbon dioxide, which comprises most of Venus’ thick atmosphere, could turn to ice or snow. It’s even colder than any part of Earth’s atmosphere.

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