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The Gale Winds of Venus Suggest How Locked Exoplanets Could Escape a Fate of Extreme Heat and Brutal Cold

31 Jan 2019, 21:25 UTC
The Gale Winds of Venus Suggest How Locked Exoplanets Could Escape a Fate of Extreme Heat and Brutal Cold
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Two images of the nightside of Venus captured by the IR2 camera on the Akatsuki orbiter in September 2016 (JAXA).

More than two decades before the first exoplanet was discovered, an experiment was performed using a moving flame and liquid mercury that could hold the key to habitability on tidally locked worlds.
The paper was published in a 1969 edition of the international journal, Science, by researchers Schubert and Whitehead. The pair reported that when a Bunsen flame was rotated beneath a cylindrical container of mercury, the liquid began to flow around the container in the opposite direction at speeds up to four times greater than the rotation of the flame. The scientists speculated that such a phenomenon might explain the rapid winds on Venus.
On the Earth, the warm equator and cool poles set up a pressure difference that creates our global winds. These winds are deflected westward by the rotation of the planet (the so-called Coriolis force) promoting a zonal (east-west) air flow around the globe. But what would happen if our planet’s rotation slowed? Would our winds just cycle north and south between the equator and poles?
The Moon is tidally locked to the Earth, ...

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