As a result of Jupiter -- the largest planet in our solar system -- moving closer and then away from the sun in its early formation, the planet's vast gravitational pull effectively killed off Venus' potentially Earth-like environment, the authors of a study published in the Planetary Science Journal found.
Venus is the second closest planet to the sun, and now has a surface temperature of about 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius) -- above the melting point of lead, according to NASA. This is hotter than Mercury, despite Mercury being closer to the sun.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) said that Jupiter's movement likely accelerated Venus' fate as an inhospitable planet.
"As Jupiter migrated, Venus would have gone through dramatic changes in climate, heating up then cooling off and increasingly losing its water into the atmosphere," said Stephen Kane, UCR astrobiologist, in a statement Wednesday.
"One of the interesting things about the Venus of today is that its orbit is almost perfectly circular," added Kane, who led the study.
"With this project, I wanted to explore whether the orbit has always been circular and if not, what are the implications of that?"
Researchers created a model of the solar system to learn how each planet's orbit affected each other.
A planet's orbit is measured between zero and one. The closer to zero, the more circular the orbit, whilst an orbit of one -- which is not circular at all -- wouldn't even be able to complete an orbit around a star and would instead launch into space, Kane said.
Researchers found that, when Jupiter was closer to the sun around a billion years ago, Venus had an orbit of 0.3, meaning that there was a higher probability that the planet was habitable.
However, as Jupiter migrated, it pushed Venus too close to the sun, where it would have undergone a dramatic change in climate, resulting in its current orbit being around 0.006 -- the most circular out of any planet.
Due to Jupiter's vast size, it has the ability to disturb the orbits of surrounding planets; it has a mass that is two-and-a-half-times greater than all of the other planets in the solar system combined.
Venus, which is named after the Roman goddess of love, is sometimes referred to as Earth's twin due to their similar size.
A study publish last year found that Venus likely maintained stable temperatures and hosted liquid water for billions of years before an event triggered drastic changes in the planet. Now, it is a mostly dead planet with a toxic atmosphere 90 times thicker than Earth's.
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