By: April Carson
Extreme heat, hurricane winds, and violent volcanic activity appear to be the last places in the solar system to look for life, but a new study claims that it might still exist in Venus' acidic clouds.
The second planet from the Sun is frequently referred to as Earth's "sister" owing to their comparable sizes, masses, and density, but that's where the resemblance ends. Unlike on Earth, temperatures on Venus reach 464 degrees Celsius (867 degrees Fahrenheit) because its atmosphere mostly comprises of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. The Earth's early oceans may have once supported life, but they all dried up.
While this may seem to be the case, while being physically impossible on the surface, life could still exist in the clouds of sulfuric acid that blanket Venus, according to a research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine on Monday.
The researchers' chemical model of the Venusian atmosphere, led by Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT, "predicts that the clouds are not entirely composed of sulfuric acid, but instead include ammonium salt slurries produced through biological processes in cloud droplets."
That is, the clouds are “no more acidic” than some of Earth's extreme habitats that support life, according to the research.
Ammonia is necessary for several biological processes, and the researchers note that its presence in cloud droplets might suggest "life might be creating its own environment on Venus."
“This study is suggesting that ammonia exists in the atmosphere, and this chemical process is actually happening,” Seager informed Inverse. “And a really nice side effect of that is that some of the Venus cloud droplets would be more habitable than previously thought.”
In 2020, Keefer and his colleagues suggested the presence of phosphine – another "bio-signature" gas – in the clouds on Venus, and the current study is the continuation of that work.
However, she acknowledged that the Venusian atmosphere's habitability is still a hypothesis, assuring that "in the far distant future...we might attempt to bring a sample of the cloud substance back to Earth in order to look for life.”
For the time being, researchers will have to make do with using computer models.
“We are trying to build a virtual Venus the size of a planet in our lab here on Earth,” said Krasnopolsky. “Once we get high enough resolution results, just like if you want to read something that is very small you can't do it without a good microscope, we need to have high resolution results in order to be able to figure out what is going on.”
Although the current state of research into Venus's atmosphere leaves many questions unanswered about its habitability, scientists are confident that they are on the right track towards understanding this planet fully in the coming years.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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