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JWST as VWST: the Venus-World Space Telescope

Presentation #102.34 in the session Poster Session.

Published onJun 20, 2022
JWST as VWST: the Venus-World Space Telescope

NASA’s selection of two Venus Discovery-class missions, DAVINCI and VERITAS, ESA’s selection of the EnVision M-class mission, and the advent of both privately funded (e.g. Venus Life Finder) and other international mission efforts sending spacecraft to the second planet (e.g. Shukrayaan-1), a much anticipated new decade of Venus science is at hand.

There is, however another Venus exploration mission that is going to beat them all to first science return: The James Webb Space Telescope. JWST, through several of its Cycle 1 observation programs (e.g., GO-1981, GO-2512) is going to be observing >10 exoplanets that have been categorized as potentially Venus like. The search for Earth-like exoplanets has, and will continue to reveal more Venus-like than Earth-like worlds for the foreseeable future. Venus-like worlds are hotter, brighter, closer to their parent stars, easier to spot, and their cloudy atmospheres are easier to see and acquire spectra — which is one reason JWST is looking at so many compared to Earth-like planets. However, just like with our own Venus, that same quality makes it harder to understand what’s beneath the clouds.

Fortunately, we can quite literally get into and under Venus’ clouds. Visiting our own Venus and studying it in-situ gives us a significant advantage in understanding the composition and evolution of the atmosphere — and the planet itself — and gives us a baseline for comparing with spectrally similar worlds outside the solar system. With Venus, we can explore and understand the detailed relationships between interior and surface processes, surface-atmosphere chemistry, deep and upper atmosphere circulation and interaction, and planet-stellar environment relationships that define how the planet broadcasts its state to the universe in emitted, transmitted, and reflected light. We can predict how Venus itself would look to JWST from various distances in different orientations and observation configurations. We will present a JWST-like Venus spectrum, compare that to what we expect for exo-Venuses, and discuss how and why they may differ.

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