A RETIRED Whittington astronomer is hoping more probes can be sent to monitor Earth’s ‘sister planet’ – Venus – after data analysed by NASA revealed active volcanoes.

Peter Williamson has lectured at Cardiff University, working with schools across Wales on projects, while also running his own radio station for space and music.

It was announced last week that, after revisiting 30-year-old data, it was clear to experts that volcanoes on Venus, which was once similar to Earth, are active today.

Peter explained that the data sent back by the only probes to be sent to Venus – in the 1970s – is low on images on what Venus’s surface is like, as they were crushed soon after landing because of the planet’s pressure.

And he added he would like to see a return to the planet using top-of-the-range equipment.

“Scientists thought they found water on Venus but they’re not sure about it now,” said Peter when asked by The Advertizer on the latest findings.

“If Venus did have water, it would be in the upper atmosphere as it’s too dry on the surface.

“It’s the volcanic activity that has left the surface as it is – it’s what is known as the runaway greenhouse effect i.e. it absorbs more heat than it can send back.

“Venus used to be like Earth but then it passed a threshold point.


“The clouds and atmosphere became too thick so the sun couldn’t get through and then the heat couldn’t get out, meaning the atmosphere there is too hot.

“We have only ever sent two probes to Venus and they only sent a few pictures back because the pressure crushed them.

“If you were to stand on the surface, it would reduce you to the size of a pizza.

“If we can get back there and get on the surface then we’d get so much more data.

“But we know that Venus has a temperature of 400 degrees and has a rain of sulphuric acid.”

The news of Venus’s volcanic activity was published in the Science journal last week, and scientists believe that the planet now joins Earth and Io, a moon of Jupiter, as the only bodies in our solar system to have active magma volcanoes.

Researchers found, after using new equipment to analyse data from 1990-92, that volcanic vents and lava flows changed between two photos taken from orbit, eight months apart.

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