Venus is leaking carbon and oxygen, a fleeting visit by BepiColombo reveals

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An abundance of gases, including carbon and oxygen, are being stripped away from Venus’ atmosphere, according to flyby data from Europe’s BepiColombo space probe. This data was obtained as the Mercury-bound spacecraft flew past Venus, and could shed new light on the leaky atmosphere of our planetary neighbor. Down the line, the findings could help scientists catalog the makeup of Venus’ fragile magnetic environment as well.

Unlike Earth, a planet with an intrinsic magnetic field that protects its atmosphere from escaping into the depths of space, Venus does not possess its own, stable magnetic field. That is because its cooler interior cannot slosh around molten material, a swirling necessary to create and sustain a magnetic field. Rather, sunlight battering on the amber-hued orb charges up its atmospheric atoms, which then create electric currents that produce an unstable, sunlight-dependent magnetosphere.

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