Physics, Earth & Space
Why Researchers Focus on Possible Life on Venus
At one time, Venus was considered a likely candidate for hosting life. But its late-discovered carbon dioxide atmosphere turned out to be very discouraging, so researchers focused on Mars.
However, research into microbes on Earth has now identified many extremophiles that live under daunting conditions, so researchers don’t want to run the risk of making “rules” for life forms that sometimes seem as if they were made to be broken.
Shaping the Environment
One possibility raised is that, given that life forms transform their environment over time, simple ones might be slowly shaping it over a long period of time:
A team of researchers has put forward a new theory suggesting possible life on the planet Venus could be making the environment more hospitable. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team from Cardiff University in Wales, MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and Cambridge University in England say potential life may be creating its own habitable environment in the clouds of Venus through a “cascade of chemical reactions,” which in turn may also explain other “strange anomalies” that have puzzled scientists for decades. Among those puzzling questions has been the presence of ammonia, a gas that was “tentatively” detected in the 1970s, and which the team says by all accounts shouldn’t be produced through any chemical process known on Venus — the second planet from the sun after Mercury and before Earth.
Simply put, the group says: “Life could be making its own environment on Venus.”MICHAEL LEE, “SCIENTISTS SUGGEST POSSIBLE LIFE ON VENUS MAY BE CREATING ITS OWN LIVABLE ENVIRONMENT” AT CTV NEWS (JANUARY 10, 2022); THE PAPER IS OPEN ACCESS.
Much Ado About Ammonia
Why be so sure that ammonia means anything? Venus’s atmosphere is highly acidic and some life forms are known to produce it in order to neutralize acid. In any event, both public and private sources are organizing missions to Venus.
While the surface of Venus is hot enough to melt lead, the upper cloud layers may be hospitable enough to host microbial life. Scientists think atmospheric balloons may be the best tool to investigate.BLOOMBERG, FEBRUARY 9, 2022
Science Alert offers more details:
And interestingly, conditions on Venus are far less harsh at a height of about 50 km (30 miles) above the surface. In fact, the pressure at these higher altitudes eases so much that conditions become much more Earth-like, with breathable air and balmy temperatures.
If life (in the form of microbes) does exist on Venus, this is probably where it would be found.GAIL ILES, THE CONVERSATION, “COULD NASA REALLY FIND LIFE ON VENUS? HERE’S THE MOST LIKELY PLACE TO LOOK” AT SCIENCE ALERT (JUNE 7, 2021)
In late 2020, we also learned that evidence of phosphine, a gas associated with living organisms, was found in a habitable region of the atmosphere of Venus.
Read the rest at Mind Matters News, published by Discovery Institute’s Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence.