Monday, 10 December, 2018

Scientists Hint At Life In The Atmosphere Of Venus

Venus could be a better bet for ET than Mars - scientists There may be aliens living in the clouds of Venus — but only microbes, Nasa claims
Troy Mann | 04 April, 2018, 13:40

Could there be life in the skies of Venus? "That's much longer than is believed to have occurred on Mars", said Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

Venus' cloud are partly made of sulfuric acid and reflect 75 per cent of the sunlight that falls on them, making them completely opaque. Mysterious dark patches in the clouds absorb light in a similar way to bacteria, previous studies have found.

Spectroscopic observations, particularly in the ultraviolet, show that the dark patches are composed of concentrated sulphuric acid and other unknown light-absorbing particles. But now it's a wasteland of volcanoes and barren rock, and until more probes are sent to examine the atmosphere in detail, we won't know for sure if those Venusian microbes really exist.

"Venus shows some episodic dark, sulfuric rich patches, with contrasts up to 30-to-40 percent in the ultraviolet, and muted in longer wavelengths", Limaye said.

This potentially habitable atmosphere exists around 31 miles above the surface, inspiring sci-fi stories about terraforming Venus to build cities in the clouds.

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The paper in the journal Astrobiology postulates that life forms on Venus could be a theoretical possibility because observed conditions like temperature, pressure, and chemical and physical properties are within a possible range. They also feature something odd: unexplained dark patches composed of sulfuric acid that persist for days and change their shape.

Although the paper is new, the theory of extraterrestrial life hiding in the atmosphere of Venus is decades old. The right conditions, similar to what would encourage algae blooms here on Earth, may also contribute to the unusual episodic dark patches seen in the planet's cloud tops. Aerospace company Northrop Grumman has already developed an unmanned aerial concept vehicle with a wingspan of over 180 feet and solar-powered propellers that could effectively cruise around the planet's atmosphere for as long as a year. The next step would be to test that theory on Earth, recreating Venus' atmosphere in a specialized chamber. Researchers used scientific equipment mounted on balloons to sample these bacteria after which, a study on these bacteria revealed that they are alive.

Within this context, we present a discussion about the potential for microorganisms to survive in Venus' lower clouds and contributing to the observed spectra.

Limaye said the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform-a spacecraft that flies like a plane but floats like a blimp-could stay aloft in the Venus' cloud layer for up to a year to gather data and samples.

Venus has not been a high priority for space exploration in recent years, although several probes have orbited or landed on the planet since 1962. No matter how it goes, however, the team has a chance of being the first to discover alien life - in one of the places we'd have considered most inhospitable.

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