[SFX: crackling thunder]
The surface of Venus is a world straight out of a nightmare. Temperatures hover near 850 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere pushes down with a pressure of about two-thirds of a ton per square inch. During the day, a constant cloud cover filters out most of the sunlight, so the sky looks dull orange. And at night, some of the rocks may glow from the intense heat.
And a spacecraft that's orbiting Venus has found that you can add one more ingredient to the spooky ambience: lightning. [SFX: more thunder]
There have been hints of lightning on Venus for decades, but the hints could never be confirmed.
But a European craft called Venus Express has settled the matter. A radio receiver aboard the orbiter has recorded the crackle of electrical discharges in the planet's atmosphere: lightning. And in fact, some scientists say that lightning could be as common on Venus as it is on Earth.
Thick layers of clouds completely blanket Venus. They're high in the sky, though -- the lowest cloud layer is about 30 miles up. There's a lot of energy up there, though, and that could create the same conditions that produce lightning in the clouds on Earth. But we don't know if lightning bolts travel to the ground, or if they stay in the clouds -- producing spooky flashes of light on a nightmarish world. [SFX: more thunder]
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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