Is there life in the clouds of Venus?

When it comes to the search for life in the Solar system, astronomers often turn their gaze on Mars or the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. But according to the results of a new study to find extraterrestrial life, we might want to pay attention to its nearest neighbor – Venus. An international group of researchers suggests that the dense atmosphere of Venus could serve as potential refuge for microbial life. As the researchers write, they not only provided ample evidence that in the Venus clouds can be inhabited by extreme life forms, but also showed that life on Venus may help explain the changing appearance of the clouds on the planet. Let me remind you that this mystery haunted astronomers for nearly a century.

Hell planet

One of the first who spoke about life in the atmosphere of Venus, was the astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. In 1993, he co-authored a scientific article on this subject, and resented that the majority of astronomers 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 as the temperature therein 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 they say in the official press release from the authors of the article published March 30 in the journal Astrobiology, Venus had enough time for life to develop on her own. Previous studies have shown that Venus once could exist liquid water and habitable climate for as much as 2 billion years. But it is much longer than expected on Mars.

A team of astronomers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believes that similar to the ground conditions would allow life initially formed on the surface of Venus, before eventually relocate to the Venusian clouds.this scenario may seem unlikely, on Earth, microorganisms such as bacteria, can rise high into the atmosphere. In fact, researchers from NASA, using specialized research balloons, discovered microorganisms that can survive atup to 41 km above the Earth’s surface.

In addition, as noted in the work of astronomers, space probes sent to Venus between 1962 and 1978, showed that,the surface of Venus is not conducive to life, its atmosphere could itself be. At the height of from 40 to 60 km the atmospheric temperature 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 rich gray Venusian air is very toxic – at least for most known forms of life.

Over the years of observations scientists have made great catalog of microbes that can survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. One of these organisms are tardigrades – microscopic creatures that can survive almost anywhere, at first glance uninhabitable. Even in space, however, not more than 10 days. So maybe, these creatures live in the Venusian clouds? Scientists believe that this is unlikely, but possible. Some forms of life on Earth thrive feeding on carbon dioxide and producing sulfuric acid. The atmosphere of Venus consists mainly of carbon dioxide and water that contains a lot of sulfuric acid. This means that the toxic cloud is not necessarily lifeless. About how Venus turned into a hellish planet, read the material my colleague Ramis picture.

The researchers also noted that, based on previous spectroscopic observations, dark spots on Venus consist of particles of nearly the same size and shape as the selected light-absorbing bacteria found Earth. This means that atmospheric spots on Venus can be alive with colonies of microorganisms similar to blooming algae, which are commonly found in large bodies of water on Earth. However, until now all devices used for sampling of the atmosphere of Venus, were unable to distinguish between inorganic and organic compounds. Even more fascinating articles about life on other planets read on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There regularly are articles that are not on the website.