By Clara Moskowitz
Staff Writer

March 18, Yahoo

Mars and Venus, those seemingly contrasting planets of self-help book fame, have more in common than you might think. Two nearly identical spacecraft around Mars and Venus have compared the two worlds' atmospheres and found them to be surprisingly similar.

The ESA's Mars Express and Venus Express are currently in orbit around the planets taking measurements of their atmospheres as they interact with solar radiation. The data show that charged particles from the gas layers around both planets are being scavenged by solar wind and storms.

"Mars and Venus are very different planets," said David Brain, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a supporting investigator for Venus Express. "Venus's atmosphere is very thick, dry and hot, and Mars's atmosphere is very thin and cold. And yet the same processes are happening on both planets."

Both Venus's and Mars's atmospheres are about 95 percent carbon dioxide. Earth's is mostly nitrogen now, but scientists think it used to be more like the other rocky worlds.

Read more this news quote

photo: A handout of the European Space Agency ESA shows a visualisation of Mars, created from spacecraft imagery. Sudden, tremendous gushes of water from underground most likely carved out unusual fan-shaped geological formations with steps like a staircase long ago on the surface of Mars, scientists said on Wednesday (REUTERS/Ho/European Space Agency)