Venus: A Contrast in Evolution to Earth

Science  09 Mar 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4947, pp. 1191-1196
DOI: 10.1126/science.247.4947.1191


Of the planets, Venus and Earth are by far the most similar in primary properties, yet they differ markedly in secondary properties. A great impact into Earth is believed to have created its moon and removed its atmosphere; the lack of such an impact into Venus apparently led to a greatly differing atmospheric evolution. The lack of an ocean on Venus prevents the recycling of volatiles and inhibits subduction, so that its crust is probably more voluminous than Earth's, although distorted and quite variable in thickness. Venus's upper mantle appears to be depleted in both volatiles and energy sources because, in addition to the lack of volatile recycling, melts of mantle rocks are more dense than their solid matrix at pressures above 8 gigapascals and hence sink if they occur at depths below 250 kilometers. Appreciable energy sources persist at great depths to sustain the few great mountain complexes. The greatest current problem is reconciling the likelihood of a voluminous crust with indications of considerable strength at shallow depths of 20 to 100 kilometers.