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The Question

(Submitted March 09, 1997)

Could Venus and Earth have, at one time, switched orbits?

The Answer

No, it is not really a possibility that Venus and Earth have ever switched orbits. There are some folks who have proposed outlandish ideas about Venus actually being a part of Jupiter that was blown off somehow, wandered around in the solar system for awhile (sometimes near Earth), and then settled down into its present orbit. This is not supported by scientific evidence, however.

Venus is sometimes regarded as Earth's sister planet. In some ways they are very similar, e.g. they are roughly the same size, their densities and chemical compositions are similar, they both have relatively young surfaces. Because of these similarities, it was thought that below its dense clouds Venus might be very Earth-like and might even have life. But, unfortunately, more detailed study of Venus reveals that in many important ways it is radically different from Earth. You can learn more about this at http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/billa/tnp/venus.html

Regards,
Laura Whitlock
for the Ask an Astrophysicist Team

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