Before We Destroyed Earth, We Destroyed Venus

hot planet Venus

I try to avoid conspiracy theories and fringe science, but every once and a while a story catches my attention and I read on past the crazy headline. Such was the case with a story that says “Humans Could Be From Venus: A theory about the destructive nature of humanity”

Even if your only knowledge of Venus comes from an elementary school science class, you would know that the planet is not for humans. These days we hear about Mars expeditions, not ones to Venus.

The atmospheric pressure on Venus is high enough to crush humans. The air is a toxic mix of sulfur and carbon dioxide. The temperatures on the surface is hundreds of degrees. So why would anyone think that human life might have been there at one time?

It is actually connected to the idea (and supported with money by people like billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk) of a future for the human race off this planet on Mars or beyond. Might the human race have done this move before?

NASA, in looking at our own climate data and worst-case scenarios for the future of Earth, has pondered whether Venus might have once been habitable and that its ecosystem was destroyed. Those scenarios about Earth’s future has a planet more like Venus.

The standard theory on Venus is that natural planetary causes or an event from space created the planet we know. Is it at all possible that humans or some form of ancient human ancestor millions of years ago destroyed the planet? It’s the greenhouse effect unchecked. More CO2 goes into the air and heat gets trapped, temperatures rise which causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and that loop eventually destroys all life.

I doubt that is what happened. This is where the speculation gets pretty crazy in a way that is good for science-fiction plots but not for science non-fiction. Where is the evidence for this Venus theory? I don’t see any – but others do.

Following this Venus line of speculation leads us to ask how and why did humanity make a quite sudden evolutionary appearance on Earth relatively few thousands of years ago? The whole primate to primitive humans to fully homo sapiens has had scientists theorizing for centuries. Having us land here from Venus is an easy (too easy) explanation.

And then we get to all the ideas about things like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and agriculture which all arrive at roughly 3000BCE. The theory that has produced lots of books and movies has been that aliens visited Earth and helped humans leap into the future. But what if those “aliens” were us come from Venus?

Venus dayside
A more habitable looking Venus dayside in false color via PLANET-C Project Team/ EuroPlanet

Venus now is completely uninhabitable. It has a cloud cover so thick as to prevent us from getting a closer look at even the surface. That ambiguity allows the Venus-was-our-home theorists to wonder if under the clouds and surface there might be the remnants of an old civilization. We start out on one planet, flourish for a few thousand years, and eventually ruin the place and then move on to the next one.

It makes for an interesting story. It’s a cautionary tale about what we are doing – and maybe have already done before – to a planet’s environment.

I just wonder why those Venusians who were advanced enough to make it to Earth ended up being so primitive when they got here that they needed to start over. Didn’t they bring any of their advanced tools and records? And why did they look so primitive?

I think I’m seeing more credibility in the old aliens-helped-us theory from the 1950s. If that one is true, they should be arriving again pretty soon to move us off Earth to the next place.


Read the original article that started me thinking about all this at medium.com and read about a new study about the idea of human colonization on Mars.

Venus, Evening Star

Venus Pacific
Venus on a clear dark night over the Pacific Ocean

Venus is always out there but this month the planet has been especially bright. Venus reached its greatest illuminated extent yesterday and looked like the brightest possible “star.”

Venus is the second-brightest heavenly body in the night sky after the moon and it outshines all other planets and stars. Right now it is almost three times brighter than it was a few months ago.

Venus has been very prominent in the evening sky since last summer but that will end when June 2020 arrives. If it’s clear in your place, I recommend a few minutes outside the next few days at dusk and early evening to gaze at Venus and imagine.

In Paradelle, Venus rises by 6 a.m. and sets about 3 and a half hours after sunset. The “evening star” will be visible after sunset wherever. For an exact time in your location use this calculator at timeanddate.com.

Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and a Crescent Moon

If you were up early this morning you would have seen a lineup in the morning sky of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter on a line with the morning crescent moon. The lineup will be around for the next few mornings, so if there is a clear sky and you are up more than an hour before sunrise, it will be easy to spot.

Look east to the sunrise and the Moon will slide its way up past the three planets.

planets
The planetary lineup – via earthsky.org

This morning the waning crescent moon was right next to Jupiter. (This is best viewed from North America.)

Saturn and Venus are east of Jupiter and the line they seem to all be on is the ecliptic, or Earth-sun plane. This is the plane on which the other planets in our solar system and the moon all orbit, so we view them as being on this line.

Hello and Goodbye, Venus

Venus and Earth size comparison

Tonight and Friday night are when Venus will be at its brightest. When we see the planet’s daytime/illuminated side is when it is bright and right now is when we see the maximum amount of it.

Venus is the third-brightest celestial body in Earth’s sky (after the Sun and Moon) and is often mistaken for a star.  Tonight you would see it low in the sky with Jupiter, Saturn and Mars above it in a fairly straight line.

When Venus passes between the Earth and Sun (October 26), it will leave the evening sky and move into our morning sky. That passing is known to astronomers as an inferior conjunction of Venus, after which its day side is facing away from us.

That’s No Star

Tonight, July 20, that bright “star” near the moon is no star. It is Jupiter.

Jupiter is shining more brightly than any star now (though Mars is even brighter). The moon and Jupiter are particularly close tonight and during this weekend.

Venus and Mars are the other starlike objects that outshine Jupiter in the evening sky, but you can tell the difference. Venus is in the western sky as darkness falls. Mars is in the southeast horizon at nightfall.  Jupiter will be near the moon for this weekend.

Trump Says Sun Equally to Blame for Blocking the Moon

There’s all kinds of fake news these days. There is even fake news about fake news. There has pretty much always been fake news about science, even before we used the word science.

Imagine all those ancient people wondering about lunar and solar eclipses. How many of them did eye damage by staring up at a solar eclipse? Were the gods or a God punishing us by taking away the Sun, and further punishing those who dared to look at it? Did they pray the Sun would return and rejoice when it did return?

In July 2015, an article online claimed that NASA had confirmed that the Earth will experience 15 days of total darkness between November 15 and November 29, 2015. Supposedly, this had not occurred in over one million years.

Of course, it was fake news. The original story seems to have come from a fake news website Newswatch33 (no link to it here which would only increase its search ranking).

The story is evergreen and came back as happening in November 2016 as that date approached the following year, and I saw it this week as a link in some Facebook feeds as an event for November 2017. I suspect the eclipse publicity brought this “November Blackout” story back and social media will give it some life again. Any number of legitimate news, science or debunking websites will tell you it’s completely fake.

And yet some people believe it. Wouldn’t you think that if  NASA knew that the world will remain in complete darkness for 15 day it would have been covered by the real media and not just by your friends on social media?

The “explanation” of this supposed event was that it would occur because of  another astronomical event between Venus and Jupiter. It was explained that during the conjunction between Venus and Jupiter on October 26, light from Venus would cause gases in Jupiter to heat up and those gasses will cause a large amount of hydrogen to be released into space. The gases will reach the Sun and trigger a massive explosion on the surface of the star, heating it to 9,000 degrees Kelvin. The heat of the explosion would then cause the Sun to emit a blue color. The dull blue color will last for 15 days during which the Earth will be thrown into darkness.”

This bullshit jumps off from the term “conjunctions,” which are real but mostly just visual phenomena. Conjunction, in astronomy, is an apparent close meeting or passing of two or more celestial bodies. It is hardly a rare thing. The Moon is in conjunction with the Sun every month at the phase of New Moon, when it moves between the Earth and Sun and the side turned toward the Earth is dark. That two things in the sky look closer together from our point of view on Earth does not mean that they are in fact close together.

Are Jupiter and Venus ever in conjunction? Yes, and when that happens they can still be over 800 million km apart. (For perspective, the Sun and the Earth are about 150 million km apart.)

Jupiter doesn’t affect the Sun. At about 778 million km from the Sun,  Jupiter could swap places with Venus or Jupiter could disappear and the Sun would go on shining normally.

I suppose we Earthlings would like to believe that amazing things can happen. Add to that the pretty poor understanding of basic science (especially of things astronomical) that most people have retained (oh, it was taught to you in school), and these ridiculous stories more easily gain traction. It’s not that fake news didn’t make its way around a town, country or the world a thousand years ago. Surely, it did – but slowly. Since the rise in popularity of the Internet and social media sharing, hoaxes and fake news has proliferated at an incredibly fast rate.

One of the other big fake science stories is the  “Mars Hoax” which pops up every August online since 2003. That year, a historically close approach of the Red Planet to Earth actually did occur. But it has become an annual event online and the closeness has grown so that the headline or link will say that on some particular night in August, Mars will appear as big as the full moon. Totally untrue. That didn’t even happen in 2003. It will never happen.

This year there was a new fake story to start the year saying that on January 4, 2017 it would be “Zero Gravity Day”  when people on Earth would be able to experience weightlessness if they jumped into the air at a specific moment that day. How many people believed that one? I don’t have that number, but I suspect it is not zero.

That particular story sent me back to childhood and listening to the humorist Jean Shepherd on the radio. At least once, he tried to get listeners to jump as high as they could on his command to test a theory that if we removed enough weight from the Earth all at once, we could tip the planet. We knew it was Shep yanking our chain, but I did jump on his command just for the heck of it.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about fake news and I said that, of course, everyone knows that headlines from The Onion or The Borowitz Report are quite deliberately fake and satiric. My friend didn’t know that and didn’t think he had ever seen any of those stories. As someone on Facebook and Twitter, I’m sure he has seen them. I hope he didn’t believe any of them.

Sure, Andy Borowitz is published by The New Yorker, a very legitimate and respected magazine, but his Borowitz Report web page says right at the top “Satire from the Borowitz Report. Not the news.” But you don’t see that tagline disclaimer when someone posts a link to one of his stories. You see “Trump Says Sun Equally to Blame for Blocking the Moon,” and think that since President Trump has said so many ridiculous things lately that it might actually be true. It is getting harder to be ridiculous these days.

The Onion‘s headlines tend to be a bit easier to spot as satire – “‘My Work Here Is Done,’ Smiles Contented Bannon Before Bursting Into Millions Of Spores,” for example – but I’m sure there are people who read them (and pass them on) sometimes as real news.  SAD – as our President might comment about this in a tweet.