Raining in the Solar System

 

Venus lightning and clouds

Lightning and clouds on Venus – an artist’s impression.

Earth is not the only place in the solar system where it rains.

Venus takes acid rain to a new level. In the clouds of Venus, it rains pure sulfuric acid, which is better known for being in your car battery. NASA probes have also confirmed the presence of lightning – not surprising, given just how thick the clouds are. Not to worry, though, the rain doesn’t actually reach the surface, which has such insane heat and pressure that the battery acid rain evaporates before hitting the surface. The surface of Venus is a volcanic hellscape (you could have pools of molten lead, and the carbon dioxide atmosphere becomes a hybrid of liquid and gas called a super-critical fluid), so the acid rain is the least of your concerns.

It says something for how hostile colonization is off of Earth that the atmosphere of Venus (50 km above the hellish surface) is seriously being considered for colonization. It helps that the CO2 atmosphere is so dense that the nitrogen/oxygen mix in our atmosphere would act like helium in a blimp. That high up, you would only need a hazmat suit, as opposed to a spacesuit, and we have a lot of experience making acid-resistant clothing.

Methane Rainstorm on Titan

Methane Rainstorm on Titan – Artist’s Impression by David Hardy https://www.astroart.org/saturn

On the other side of the thermometer, you have Titan. Titan is one of the moons that just inspires wonder. It has a frigid, mostly nitrogen atmosphere, with a temperature around the freezing point of methane (the main component of natural gas). This results in a planet where methane acts in all the ways water does on Earth. There are methane lakes, methane clouds, and methane rain – which falls slowly due to the low gravity. On the other hand, Titan’s water acts like silica on Earth. There are vast sand-dunes of water ice, and thick layers of solid ice over water, with the occasional water volcano.

Did I mention that because of the low gravity and dense atmosphere of Titan, a person could strap on wings and fly like a bird? Needless to say, Titan is on the colonization radar. It’s currently my favorite moon in the solar system.

There are 35 comments.

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    All the destinations sound just lovely.  I can’t make up my mind.

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Colonize Venus?  I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.  

    • #2
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I’d love to see it rain cats and dogs on another planet or planet-sized moon.

    This is part of this month’s group writing series Raining Cats and Dogs.  We still need plenty of entries, so feel free to add more!

     

    • #3
  4. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    So, Venus would be the destination hotspot for Earth’s snowbirds?  Just like Arizona, but without all the crowds?

    • #4
  5. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    Venus Colonies floating in the clouds

    Venus Aerostat Colonies floating in the clouds.

    • #5
  6. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    OmegaPaladin: The surface of Venus is a volcanic hellscape (you could have pools of molten lead, and the carbon dioxide atmosphere becomes a hybrid of liquid and gas called a super-critical fluid), so the acid rain is the least of your concerns.

    This made me think of the few landers that have been sent to Venus. I wondered which one lasted the longest and for how long. It was the USSR’s Venera 13, which lasted for 127 minutes. The article mentions that NASA and Russia are discussing a successor mission to last months on the surface. Seems ambitious to go from 2 hours to months in one leap.

    • #6
  7. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    OmegaPaladin: Did I mention that because of the low gravity and dense atmosphere of Titan, a person could strap on wings and fly like a bird? Needless to say, Titan is on the colonization radar. It’s currently my favorite moon in the solar system.

    I enjoyed Imperial Earth as a teenager. Released in 1976 for the bicentennial, it is set in 2276 and Titan has a colony of a quarter million people.

    • #7
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Yeah, but I didn’t want to mess with it being necessary for all life, etc..

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    Venus Colonies floating in the cloudsVenus Aerostat Colonies floating in the clouds.

    That would be quite spectacular, provided we could see below the clouds.

    • #8
  9. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    It wouldn’t be easier. A lot of delta v to cancel.

    • #9
  10. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    It wouldn’t be easier. A lot of delta v to cancel.

    And you might create a supervillain in the process.

    • #10
  11. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Video gamers sometimes employ a cheat called “god mode” that grants the player complete invulnerability. Conditions and creatures which provoke fear under normal circumstances become more pleasant when they no longer threaten. 

    Here on Earth, this is a common effect of photographic distance. We marvel at so many beautiful scenes through pictures and videos because our bodies are not then oppressed by those environments’ heat or cold, the mosquitoes or ants, traffic noise, bothersome people, etc. Photography enables us to isolate the elements we prefer. 

    I occasionally play space exploration games. They barely scratch the surface of our galaxy’s wonders. But we are gradually developing ways to simulate safe exploration of other planetary environments. One can already pop on a VR headset and look around Mars as recorded by NASA’s rover. 

    • #11
  12. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    I thought Outland was set on Titan but it turns out it was set on Io.  It was High Noon in space.  I have always enjoyed some of the newer sci-fi movies and shows where people are just doing regular blue collar stuff in space, like Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton as space snipes in Alien, arguing about overtime.

    • #12
  13. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    ~indigeinous Venusian looks into camera, weeps single acidic tear~

    • #13
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the August 2019 Group Writing Theme: Raining Cats and Dogs. Our September theme is “Autumn Colors.” There are plenty of dates available. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #14
  15. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    Venus Colonies floating in the clouds

    Venus Aerostat Colonies* floating in the clouds.

    ___________
    *Ugnaught tibanna gas miners not included in purchase price.

    • #15
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    I thought Outland was set on Titan but it turns out it was set on Io. It was High Noon in space. I have always enjoyed some of the newer sci-fi movies and shows where people are just doing regular blue collar stuff in space, like Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton as space snipes in Alien, arguing about overtime.

    “And all this science I don’t understand; it’s just my job five days a week…” – from Elton John’s Rocket Man, said to be based on a Ray Bradbury short story 

    • #16
  17. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    TBA (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    ~indigeinous Italian-Venusian looks into camera, weeps single acidic tear~

    FIFY

    • #17
  18. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen
    @tommeyer

    OmegaPaladin:

    It says something for how hostile colonization is off of Earth that the atmosphere of Venus (50 km above the hellish surface) is seriously being considered for colonization. It helps that the CO2 atmosphere is so dense that the nitrogen/oxygen mix in our atmosphere would act like helium in a blimp. That high up, you would only need a hazmat suit, as opposed to a spacesuit, and we have a lot of experience making acid-resistant clothing.

    When I first heard about this, I was incredulous, but it does seem that putting an outpost on Venus would be one of the easier options.

    That said, I think it would be prohibitively difficult to turn that outpost into a colony. All space colonization suffers from some form of “and what do these people do once they’re there” but Venus — lacking water and solid material where the colonies would be — seems intractable that way.

    On top of that, you’ve got a relatively big gravity well of its own, making transportation off-world is going to be costly.

    • #18
  19. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin:

    It says something for how hostile colonization is off of Earth that the atmosphere of Venus (50 km above the hellish surface) is seriously being considered for colonization. It helps that the CO2 atmosphere is so dense that the nitrogen/oxygen mix in our atmosphere would act like helium in a blimp. That high up, you would only need a hazmat suit, as opposed to a spacesuit, and we have a lot of experience making acid-resistant clothing.

    When I first heard about this, I was incredulous, but it does seem that putting an outpost on Venus would be one of the easier options.

    That said, I think it would be prohibitively difficult to turn that outpost into a colony. All space colonization suffers from some form of “and what do these people do once they’re there” but Venus — lacking water and solid material where the colonies would be — seems intractable that way.

    On top of that, you’ve got a relatively big gravity well of its own, making transportation off-world is going to be costly.

    Step 1: Build a colony on Venus!

    Step 2: … … ? 

    Step 3: We all get rich!!

    • #19
  20. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen
    @tommeyer

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin:

    It says something for how hostile colonization is off of Earth that the atmosphere of Venus (50 km above the hellish surface) is seriously being considered for colonization. It helps that the CO2 atmosphere is so dense that the nitrogen/oxygen mix in our atmosphere would act like helium in a blimp. That high up, you would only need a hazmat suit, as opposed to a spacesuit, and we have a lot of experience making acid-resistant clothing.

    When I first heard about this, I was incredulous, but it does seem that putting an outpost on Venus would be one of the easier options.

    That said, I think it would be prohibitively difficult to turn that outpost into a colony. All space colonization suffers from some form of “and what do these people do once they’re there” but Venus — lacking water and solid material where the colonies would be — seems intractable that way.

    On top of that, you’ve got a relatively big gravity well of its own, making transportation off-world is going to be costly.

    Step 1: Build a colony on Venus!

    Step 2: … … ?

    Step 3: We all get rich!!

    And underpants gnomes need less space, so…

    • #20
  21. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    My thought on a Venus colony is remotely operating mining via telepresence.   Probably only profitable for precious metals, but it is easier to control the machines if they have only a little light lag. 

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen
    @tommeyer

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    My thought on a Venus colony is remotely operating mining via telepresence. Probably only profitable for precious metals, but it is easier to control the machines if they have only a little light lag.

    Unless there’s something really astoundingly awesome on the surface, I doubt that would be economical (or practical).

    The Delta V required to get from Venus’s surface to orbit is nearly three times what it takes to get into low-earth orbit. This is due to the awful atmosphere more than anything.

    • #22
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Planet Venus
    ★★★★☆  Mass   
    ★☆☆☆☆  Atmosphere
    ★☆☆☆☆  Accessibility
    $ $ $ $ $  Cost

    “awful atmosphere more than anything” Tom Meyer, Common Citizen 

    • #23
  24. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen
    @tommeyer

    TBA (View Comment):

    Planet Venus
    ★★★★☆ Mass
    ★☆☆☆☆ Atmosphere
    ★☆☆☆☆ Accessibility
    $ $ $ $ $ Cost

    “awful atmosphere more than anything” Tom Meyer, Common Citizen

    “Would not purchase again.”

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Next somebody should do a  post about Reining in the Solar System. ‘Cuz it’s getting uppity.   

    • #25
  26. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    If we want to expand our presence in the solar system, planets probably aren’t the way to go.  Mine the asteroids for material and build lots of big space stations.

    • #26
  27. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    Venus Colonies floating in the cloudsVenus Aerostat Colonies floating in the clouds.

    Meet George Jetson! 

    • #27
  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Colonize Venus? I’ve always thought that Venus would be a good place to send our garbage for incineration.

    The Sun is a bigger, easier target for that.

    Yeah, but I didn’t want to mess with it being necessary for all life, etc..

    Venus colonization might be something like this:

    Venus Colonies floating in the cloudsVenus Aerostat Colonies floating in the clouds.

    That would be quite spectacular, provided we could see below the clouds.

    There are ways of seeing that don’t involve light.

    • #28
  29. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):
    All space colonization suffers from some form of “and what do these people do once they’re there”

    Usually the answer goes something like “start making rocket fuel so we can get out of this awful place.”

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Here on Earth, this is a common effect of photographic distance. We marvel at so many beautiful scenes through pictures and videos because our bodies are not then oppressed by those environments’ heat or cold, the mosquitoes or ants, traffic noise, bothersome people, etc. Photography enables us to isolate the elements we prefer. 

    Colonizing Mars is science fiction. Low gravity would wreck human bodies, if not as quickly as duty on the ISS. They’d need constant protection from radiation. Micrometeorite strikes would be frequent enough to occasionally wipe out key structures or people. “Colonists” would have nothing to do but build mines and constantly shore them up to keep the (manufactured) air in.

    Humans on Venus is past the science fiction shelf – keep going into the fantasy fan-fic section. 

    Mining on the Moon and asteroids is our likeliest next successful step. Mining operations will be set up by humans, at least at first, but run robotically. The key step required to enable that future is a cheap way in and out of Earth’s gravity well.

    • #29
  30. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):
    All space colonization suffers from some form of “and what do these people do once they’re there”

    Usually the answer goes something like “start making rocket fuel so we can get out of this awful place.”

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Here on Earth, this is a common effect of photographic distance. We marvel at so many beautiful scenes through pictures and videos because our bodies are not then oppressed by those environments’ heat or cold, the mosquitoes or ants, traffic noise, bothersome people, etc. Photography enables us to isolate the elements we prefer.

    Colonizing Mars is science fiction. Low gravity would wreck human bodies, if not as quickly as duty on the ISS. They’d need constant protection from radiation. Micrometeorite strikes would be frequent enough to occasionally wipe out key structures or people. “Colonists” would have nothing to do but build mines and constantly shore them up to keep the (manufactured) air in.

    Humans on Venus is past the science fiction shelf – keep going into the fantasy fan-fic section.

    Mining on the Moon and asteroids is our likeliest next successful step. Mining operations will be set up by humans, at least at first, but run robotically. The key step required to enable that future is a cheap way in and out of Earth’s gravity well.

    I believe the jury is still out on Martian gravity being low enough to cause the same effects as weightlessness.  Also, I believe most of the colony ideas are at least partly buried structures to deal with micrometeorites.

    Humans on Venus’s surface is silly.  The upper atmosphere actually provides good protection against all of the hazards listed for Mars, in exchange for requiring a corrosion-resistant station.  (Teflon, anyone?)

    The point of the space colony is to work toward redundancy.  If Earth is rendered uninhabitable, we are screwed – unless we have colonies elsewhere. 

    • #30
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