Two Yale University researchers have found a potential shortcut in sampling Venus’ ancient surface. Instead of sending a probe on a costly and extraordinarily challenging Venus sample return mission, they propose simply finding a Venusian meteorite on our own Moon.
There’s never been a bona fide detection of a Venusian meteorite on Earth. For one reason, that’s because in the last several hundred million years at least, Venus’ atmospheric pressures have been so intense that even a catastrophic impactor could not dislodge any Venusian rocks into space.
But before Venus underwent a runaway greenhouse and morphed into the climatic hellhole it is today, it may have had liquid water oceans as late as 700 million years ago. If so, its atmosphere would have been thin enough for surface rocks to have been dislodged by massive impactors and possibly have found their way to both the Earth and our Moon.
Due to weathering here on Earth, Venusian meteorites on Earth wouldn’t survive long. But because our Moon has no atmosphere, the authors of a paper accepted by The Planetary Science Journal posit that the Moon may have be the ideal spot to preserve Venus meteorites.
Lead author Samuel Cabot and co-author Gregory Laughlin investigated the amount of material ejected from Venus when it suffered past impacts from asteroids and comets, and then traced the orbits of the rocks throughout the Solar System. They found that a small (but still significant) fraction of rocks ejected from Venus will be swept up by Earth’s Moon.
Today, due to Venus’ thick atmosphere, even a catastrophic impactor would not