Life on Venus? Why it is not an absurd thought

STANFORD, Calif. — Venus should not be dismissed as a doable abode for all times, some scientists stress.

Positive, the planet’s floor is famously inhospitable at the moment — bone-dry and sizzling sufficient to soften lead, with an atmospheric strain 90 instances larger than that of Earth at sea degree. To really feel that very same quantity of squeeze on our planet, you’d need to descend about three,000 ft (900 meters) into the oceans.

However Venus was a temperate world way back, with seas that persevered for eons — maybe 2 billion years or extra, in response to current modeling analysis. [Photos of Venus, the Mysterious Planet Next Door]

Venus could due to this fact have been a liveable planet “for a lot of photo voltaic system historical past,” astrobiologist David Grinspoon, a senior scientist on the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, stated Thursday (April 12) throughout a chat on the Breakthrough Talk about convention right here at Stanford College. 

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And Earth’s so-called sister planet might doubtlessly assist life to this present day, at the least in locations. Although Venus’ floor has gone hellish hothouse, the atmosphere just a few dozen miles excessive within the skies is fairly benign, Grinspoon and others have pressured. Temperatures and pressures up there are near these of Earth’s floor, so it is doable that Venusian life — if it ever existed — did not die out with the dramatic local weather shift way back however relatively retreated into the clouds.

These clouds are made largely of sulfuric acid, which would appear to argue towards the Venus-life thought. However over the previous couple of many years, biologists have discovered all method of hardy microbes right here on Earth able to tolerating equally excessive circumstances. And these similar acidic Venus clouds might doubtlessly present chemical power to any microbes which may be floating round up there, researchers have stated.

Intriguingly, Venus’ higher environment additionally abounds with a mysterious compound that absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the high-energy gentle that causes sunburns right here on Earth. No one is aware of what these items is or the place it comes from, however some scientists have speculated that it may very well be a organic pigment — maybe a sulfur-based sunblock of some type.

And life did not essentially need to come up on Venus to thrive there, Grinspoon added: The planet has devoured up many tons of Earth rocks that have been blasted into house by violent impacts over the previous four.5 billion years, a few of which can have sheltered unwittingly voyaging microbes. (Venus materials has additionally made its option to Earth, so it is also doable that our planet was colonized way back by native Venusians.) 

Grinspoon is not claiming that life exists on Venus, simply that it is a chance scientists ought to contemplate extra significantly. And a few of his colleagues agree. 

For instance, throughout a separate panel dialogue right here Thursday, the taking part scientists have been requested which photo voltaic system physique they might go to first to seek for alien life. Mars, the ******* moon Europa and the ****** satellites Titan and Enceladus all bought votes. However one of many Europa proponents — Cynthia Phillips, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — additionally gave a shout-out to the second rock from the solar.

“I feel we must always actually take one other have a look at Venus,” Phillips stated.

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