When it comes to searching for life in the Solar system, astronomers usually look to Mars or the ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn. But according to the results of a new study, to find extraterrestrial life, we may need to pay attention to our nearest neighbor – Venus. An international team of researchers suggests that Venus ‘ thick atmosphere could serve as a potential haven for microbial life. As the researchers write, they not only provided abundant evidence that extreme forms of life may reside in Venusian clouds, but also showed that life on Venus may help explain the changing appearance of clouds on the planet. Let me remind you that this mystery has been haunting astronomers for almost a century.
One of the first people to talk about life in the atmosphere of Venus was the astronomer and popularizer of science Carl Sagan. In 1993, he co-authored a scientific paper on this topic and resented that most astronomers do not consider Venus as a potentially habitable planet. This is primarily due to the fact that the surface of Venus – to put it mildly – is not hospitable to life, since the temperature on it exceeds 450°C, and the pressure on the surface is about 90 times greater than on Earth. But despite the fact that today, Venus is a veritable hell, once it was like our home.
As the authors of an article published on March 30 in the journal Astrobiology write in an official press release, Venus had enough time for life to develop on its own. Previous research has shown that Venus may once have had liquid water and a habitable climate for as long as 2 billion years. And this is much longer than expected on Mars.
A team of astronomers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believes that earth-like conditions would allow life to initially form on the surface of Venus before eventually moving to permanent residence in the Venusian clouds. Although this scenario may seem unlikely, on Earth micro-organisms such as bacteria can rise high into the atmosphere. In fact, researchers from NASA, using specialized research balloons, found microorganisms that can survive at an altitude of up to 41 kilometers above The earth’s surface.
In addition, as noted in their work, astronomers, space probes sent to Venus between 1962 and 1978, showed that, although the surface of Venus is not favorable for life, its atmosphere may well be so. At an altitude of 40 to 60 kilometers, the temperature of the atmosphere of Venus ranges from about 30°C to 70°C, and the pressure is almost the same as at sea level on our own planet. On the other hand, the sulfur – rich Venusian air is quite toxic-at least for most known life forms.
Over the years, scientists have compiled a large catalog of microbes that can survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. One of these organisms are slow-moving creatures-microscopic creatures that can survive almost anywhere that is seemingly uninhabitable. Even in space, however, no more than 10 days. So maybe these creatures live in the clouds of Venus? Scientists believe that this is unlikely, but possible. Some forms of life on Earth thrive on carbon dioxide and producing sulfuric acid. The atmosphere of Venus is mainly composed of carbon dioxide and water containing a lot of sulfuric acid. This means that toxic clouds are not necessarily lifeless. About how Venus turned into a hellish planet, read the material of my colleague Ramis Ganiev.
But most importantly, perhaps, the physical and chemical conditions in the atmosphere of Venus allow micro-organisms not only to exist, but also to contribute to the ever-changing appearance of the planet’s clouds.
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