Venus, the Planet: Introduction to the Evolution of Earth’s Sister Planet

Joseph G. O’Rourke, Colin F. Wilson, Madison E. Borrelli, Paul K. Byrne, Caroline Dumoulin, Richard Ghail, Anna J.P. Gülcher, Seth A. Jacobson, Oleg Korablev, Tilman Spohn, M. J. Way, Matt Weller, Frances Westall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Venus is the planet in the Solar System most similar to Earth in terms of size and (probably) bulk composition. Until the mid-20th century, scientists thought that Venus was a verdant world—inspiring science-fictional stories of heroes battling megafauna in sprawling jungles. At the start of the Space Age, people learned that Venus actually has a hellish surface, baked by the greenhouse effect under a thick, CO2-rich atmosphere. In popular culture, Venus was demoted from a jungly playground to (at best) a metaphor for the redemptive potential of extreme adversity. However, whether Venus was much different in the past than it is today remains unknown. In this review, we show how now-popular models for the evolution of Venus mirror how the scientific understanding of modern Venus has changed over time. Billions of years ago, Venus could have had a clement surface with water oceans. Venus perhaps then underwent at least one dramatic transition in atmospheric, surface, and interior conditions before present day. This review kicks off a topical collection about all aspects of Venus’s evolution and how understanding Venus can teach us about other planets, including exoplanets. Here we provide the general background and motivation required to delve into the other manuscripts in this collection. Finally, we discuss how our ignorance about the evolution of Venus motivated the prioritization of new spacecraft missions that will rediscover Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor—beginning a new age of Venus exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Planetary climates
  • Planetary probes
  • Planetary structure
  • Planetary system formation
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Venus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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