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BBC World Service

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Electric Wind on Venus

June 23rd, 2016

Episode 98 of 158 episodes

Results from the Nasa/ESA Venus Express mission reveal that the planet has an unusually strong ‘electric wind’ which could explain why there is so little water on the surface. The electric wind is the force that holds onto negatively charged electrons in the Venusian atmosphere and sucks positively charged hydrogen and oxygen ions (from water) off into space. Coupled with other atmosphere stripping factors, such as solar wind, it could help explain why Venus is so different from its near neighbour Earth. Oldest Antarctic Ice Found The importance of analysing the trapped past atmospheres contained in bubbles in ice cores is invaluable to our understanding of our climate. Until now, ice cores drilled in Antarctica only go back to 800,000 years old. But geologists exploring a little known valley, high up in the Trans-Antarctic Mountain chain have discovered ice that is more than a million years old. And they did not have to use expensive drills to get it, just a shovel! The ice was under a thin layer of debris, pushed up from the deep. Nuclear Fusion Disappointment This week spells bad news for the National Ignition Facility (or NIF) in California. The project, which aims to reproduce the fusion processes of the Sun with the help of the most powerful lasers on Earth has been called into doubt. An external official enquiry has just said that after seven years experimenting, the fusion will not catch light. Dating Extinction How can you say when a species went extinct when there are so many gaps in the fossil record? And why does it matter? (Photo: Artist's concept of the electric wind at Venus. Rays represent the paths that oxygen and hydrogen ions take as they are pulled out of the upper atmosphere Nasa/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab, Krystofer Kim)

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