Venus has a mysterious display of light shows and scientists can’t agree on what’s causing them.
For years, scientists have observed flashes of light on Venus and thought they were lightning.
But a new study suggests they might actually be meteors burning up in Venus’ atmosphere.
That’s good news for future missions to Venus since lightning would pose a threat to spacecraft.
Scientists have observed light shows on Venus for many years and during that time, the most accepted explanation was lightning. Venus might even have more lightning than Earth, NASA said in a statement from 2007.
But a new study is forcing scientists to rethink those preconceived notions, suggesting that Venus’ mysterious flashing lights are actually meteors burning up in the planet’s atmosphere.
The study, published in JGR Planets, notes that lightning on Venus is “either ubiquitous, rare, or non-existent, depending on how one interprets diverse observations.”
That’s good news for future missions to Venus; if the flashes were lightning, it could pose a threat to probes entering the planet’s atmosphere, according to NASA.
“Lightning is likely too rare to pose a hazard to missions that pass through or dwell in the clouds of Venus,” the study said. “Likewise, small meteoroids burn up at altitudes of ∼100 km, roughly twice as high above the surface as the clouds, and also would not pose a hazard.”
Researchers believe that probes that descend quickly through Venus’ atmosphere are likely safe, Space.com reported.