Venus’s Supercritical Ocean

The pressure and temperature near the surface of Venus are so high that its carbon dioxide atmosphere is a global ocean of a remarkable state of matter, a supercritical fluid, which fills any container like a gas but is as dense as a liquid.

I created a carbon dioxide pressure versus temperature phase diagram using Mathematica and its curated computable data. Phase transitions separate single-phase regions. Moving along the boiling-condensing curve from the triple point, the liquid and gas densities converge at the critical point, beyond which carbon dioxide can transition between liquid and gas without boiling or condensing! I added points representing the near-surface atmospheres of Earth and Venus, with the latter being in the supercritical region above both the critical temperature and pressure.

Only the Soviet Union‘s Venera spacecraft have landed on Venus’s alien surface, and only between 1975 and 1982. Their cameras provided us our first and so far only glimpses of Venus from beneath its supercritical “ocean”.


Carbon dioxide pressure versus temperature phase diagram, created in Mathematica. Carbon dioxide is a gas near Earth’s surface (blue dot) but is a supercritical fluid near Venus’s surface (white dot).


At the bottom of a supercritical “ocean”, the surface of Venus (top) reconstructed by Don Mitchell based on Venera 14 panoramas (bottom) processed by Ted Stryk.

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster and a visiting professor at North Carolina State University. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and NCSU. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and neural networks.
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2 Responses to Venus’s Supercritical Ocean

  1. Mark Wilson says:

    Nice post, John! Thanks for writing these. I always enjoy them.

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