ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Scientists and engineers from around the world gathered in Albuquerque this week to share and discuss their research about the planet Venus.

The Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) held its annual meeting on Monday and Tuesday, which was followed by the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s (LPI) Venus as a System Conference on Wednesday through Friday at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Volcanoes on the surface of Venus displayed on a research poster by Jayne Aubele at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Nov. 3, 2023. (KRQE Digital Reporter Fallon Fischer)

“Venus is so much like Earth. In a lot of ways, it’s like New Mexico geologically. A lot of volcanoes and a lot of tectonic features. It appears to have mountains. It’s a very Earth-like planet geologically,” said Jayne Aubele, the adult programs educator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Aubele not only served as host to the meeting but also shared her findings about Venus. She also explained that Venus also has a higher surface air pressure and hotter than Earth.

When it comes to studying Earth and Venus, one question researchers are hoping to answer is: “If you have two planets, they’re the same size, and one becomes Earth, one becomes Venus, and one becomes something else like an exoplanet, how does that happen?” said Martha Gilmore, a planetary geologist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Scientists have been conducting their own experiments to figure out the answer and have analyzed data including the information NASA’s Magellan spacecraft collected when it mapped the surface of Venus in 1989. Many of the researchers who spoke with KRQE News 13 on Friday said they are looking forward to the information that will be collected during three upcoming Venus missions: DAVINCI (NASA) tentative launch: June 2029, VERITAS (NASA) launch in 2031 or after, and EnVision (European Space Agency) set to launch in the early 2030s.

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Noam Izenberg, who serves as principal staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland, is also a science team member of the DAVINCI mission. “DAVINCI is an atmospheric probe designed to descend through the atmosphere of Venus and study it to determine the composition of the atmosphere. And again, so that we can compare Venus’s atmosphere and Earth’s. And again, how Earth and Venus’ evolutions have diverged,” Izenberg explained.

Izenberg said VERITAS will be a radar mission that will “vastly improve our resolution and understanding of the surface of Venus because a radar sees through the thick Venus clouds,” he said.

Images of Venus’ surface from above were on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Nov. 3, 2023. (KRQE Digital Reporter Fallon Fischer)

The weeklong event held at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science brought together scientists from all backgrounds. “We’ve had people who study ancient Venus, and getting their perspective has really helped me understand just how complicated Venus is and you can’t just take one perspective; you have to take them all,” said Paul Byrne, associate professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The event also helped connect newer and older researchers. “The most important thing that I’m learning at every conference is how important all of the missions that are coming in the next decade are going to be and the amount of data we’re going to get in 10 to 15 years. So we need to preserve that early career group who will be the ones analyzing it,” said Elise Merchak, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arkansas and founding committee member of the Organization for Venus Early-career Networking (OVEN).

For a list of events happening at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, click here.