DIX Planetary Science Seminar
A fundamental aspect of understanding the limits of habitable environments and detectable signatures is the study of where the boundaries of such environments can occur, and the conditions under which a planet is rendered into a hostile environment. In our solar system, Venus is the most Earth-like planet, yet at some point in planetary history there was a bifurcation between the two: Earth has been continually habitable since the end-Hadean, whereas Venus became uninhabitable. Indeed, Venus is the type-planet for a world that has transitioned from habitable and Earth-like conditions, through the inner edge of the Habitable Zone (HZ); thus it provides a natural laboratory to study the evolution of habitability. In this talk I will describe the gaps in our knowledge regarding Venus within the context of how these gaps are impacting our ability to model exoplanet atmospheres and interiors. I will discuss various factors that relate to a possible habitable past of Venus, including orbital evolution. I will outline exoplanet target selection for testing the conditions of runaway greenhouse and present examples of potential Venus analogs. Finally, I will summarize the primary exoplanet science questions that would be addressed by a return mission to Venus.