Could there be microbes floating in Venus’ clouds? New research paper bolsters incredible possibility

When it comes to searching for evidence of life elsewhere in the Solar System, certain places will always make the top of the list, such as Mars, Europa, Enceladus and Titan. They are considered to be the planet and moons most likely to biologically active, …

Read MoreCould there be microbes floating in Venus’ clouds? New research paper bolsters incredible possibility

What are those weird dark streaks on Venus? NASA CubeSat mission could find out

Even though Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour, it is still one of the most mysterious. Numerous landers and orbiters have visited this extremely hostile world, but there are still many unanswered questions to be resolved. Now, NASA is proposing a new mission using a …

Read MoreWhat are those weird dark streaks on Venus? NASA CubeSat mission could find out

Ancient waterworld? New evidence that Venus may have once had oceans

The surface of Venus, as seen by Magellan spacecraft radar through the thick cloud cover, is a hellish inferno. But long ago, the planet may have had oceans like Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Venus is one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system where the temperature at the surface can melt lead and the atmospheric pressure is crushing. It is not a world where scientists expect to ever find life, but the evidence continues to grow that it may not have always been that way. As recently as several hundred million years ago (in geological terms), Venus may have had oceans, according to new research. What is now a searing hot hellhole was perhaps once very wet, and, just possibly, had conditions suitable for life.

Read MoreAncient waterworld? New evidence that Venus may have once had oceans

Venus beckons part 2: A new NASA collaborative mission with Russia?

Artist’s conception of the Venera-D spacecraft in orbit around Venus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last week, Planetaria reported on why NASA should return to Venus, and new technology being developed to help make that happen, especially as in longer-lived landers or rovers. With its extremely hostile conditions, Venus has been much less of a priority in more recent years, at least in terms of surface missions, despite it being Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. But now there may be more impetus towards a new mission – not one that NASA would do alone, but rather a joint mission with Russia, known as Venera-D.

Read MoreVenus beckons part 2: A new NASA collaborative mission with Russia?

Venus beckons: Why NASA should return and how new tech will help

First colour images from the surface of Venus (Soviet Venera missions). Image Credit: NASA National Space Science Data Center/Harvard Micro Observatory/Don P. Mitchell

The Solar System has been a busy place in recent years, with missions to a diverse range of worlds, from Mars, Jupiter and Saturn to distant Pluto and even comets and asteroids. Most of these have been NASA spacecraft, which continues to lay the path to exploring such distant places. There are, however, some places which have been visited in the past, decades ago, but now are seemingly no longer a priority, such as Uranus and Neptune. But there is another planet which is actually Earth’s closest neighbour, yet was only last visited in the 1970s and 1980s, by American and Soviet spacecraft – Venus.

Read MoreVenus beckons: Why NASA should return and how new tech will help

GJ 1132b: nearest Earth-sized exoplanet discovered so far may be a ‘Venus twin’

Artist’s conception of GJ 1132b, an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a nearby star. Conditions on this world, however, are probably more like Venus than Earth. Image Credit: Dana Berry
Artist’s conception of GJ 1132b, an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a nearby star. Conditions on this world, however, are probably more like Venus than Earth. Image Credit: Dana Berry

Astronomers have discovered another Earth-sized exoplanet that is the closest one to our own Solar System found so far, but it might not be a nice place to live or even visit, with conditions thought to be more like Venus than our home world.

Read MoreGJ 1132b: nearest Earth-sized exoplanet discovered so far may be a ‘Venus twin’

New NASA planetary science proposals include Venus and ‘metallic asteroid’ missions

Artist’s conception of the VERITAS spacecraft in orbit around Venus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist’s conception of the VERITAS spacecraft in orbit around Venus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking ahead to future planetary missions, NASA has selected five new science investigations for refinement over the next year. Later, one or two of those missions will be chosen to actually be launched, perhaps as early as 2020. The selections are part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which had requested the proposals in November 2014. Initially, 27 proposals had been submitted, from which the five current finalists were chosen. The five proposals would study Venus, near-Earth objects, an unusual metallic asteroid and Trojan asteroids.

Read MoreNew NASA planetary science proposals include Venus and ‘metallic asteroid’ missions