The moon and the planets

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 127–154 | Cite as

Possible dynamical evolution of the rotation of Venus since formation

  • Bernard Lago
  • Anny Cazenave


The past evolution of the rotation of Venus has been studied by a numerical integration method using the hypothesis that only solar tidal torques and core-mantle coupling have been active since formation. It is found quite conceivable that Venus had originally a rotation similar to the other planets and has evolved in 4.5×109 years from a rapid and direct rotation (12-hour spin period and nearly zero obliquity) to the present slow retrograde one.

While the solid tidal torque may be quite efficient in despinning the planet, a thermally driven atmospheric tidal torque has the capability to drive the obliquity from ∼0° towards 180° and to stabilize the spin axis in the latter position. The effect of a liquid core is discussed and it is shown that core-mantle friction hastens the latter part of the evolution and makes even stronger the state of equilibrium at 180°. The model assumes a nearly stable balance between solid and atmospheric tides at the current rotation rate interpreting the present 243 day spin period as being very close to the limiting value.

A large family of solutions allowing for the evolution, in a few billions years, of a rapid prograde rotation to the present state have been found. Noticeably different histories of evolution are observed when the initial conditions and the values of the physical parameters are slightly modified, but generally the principal trend is maintained.

The proposed evolutionary explanation of the current rotation of Venus has led us to place constraints on the solid bodyQ and on the magnitude of the atmospheric tidal torque. While the constraints seem rather severe in the absence of core-mantle friction (aQ≃15 at the annual frequency is required, and a dominant diurnal thermal response in the atmosphere is needed), for a large range of values of the core's viscosity, the liquid core effect allows us to relax somewhat these constraints: a solid bodyQ of the order ∼40 can then be allowed. ThisQ value implies that a semi-diurnal ground pressure oscillation of ≃2 mb is needed in the atmosphere in order for a stable balance to occur between the solid and atmospheric tides at the current rotation rate. No model of atmospheric tides on Venus has been attempted in this study, however the value of 2 mb agrees well with that predicted by the model given in Dobrovolskis (1978).


Direct Rotation Pressure Oscillation Spin Axis Liquid Core Evolutionary Explanation 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Lago
    • 1
  • Anny Cazenave
    • 1
  1. 1.Groupe de Recherches de Géodésie SpatialeCentre National d'Etudes SpatialesToulouseFrance

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