Until now the efforts of space agencies had concentrated mostly on Mars when looking for life in the solar system. Venus, it is believed, is nothing short of hell. Its surface is subjected to brutal atmospheric pressure and temperature, but what about its atmosphere? A new study yields revealing data.
The surface of Venus today is a hostile place for life, but the climatological models suggest that at some point in its past it had liquid water and a temperature moderate enough to hold life. Now a new study published in the journal Astrobiology indicates the presence of microorganisms 50 kilometers above the surface of Venus.
This assumption is indirectly based on the conclusions reached by NASA scientists in 2016 after creating computer models of the climate of Venus. They said then that the planet could have harbored life 2 billion years ago when it possibly had a liquid water and a shallow ocean.
Today, however, temperatures exceed 450 degrees centigrade there and atmospheric pressure is 92 times higher than on earth’s. Even so, an international group led by astrophysicist Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin, suggested that microorganisms that lived on the surface at that time could have risen to the clouds when conditions worsened.
The researchers believe that the microbes could have risen when the water evaporated from the surface of Venus, and as an example of that possibility they referred to the discovery of bacteria in the Earth’s atmosphere, at an altitude of 41 kilometers.
“On Earth we know that life can reproduce in acidic environments, feed on carbon dioxide and produce sulfuric acid,” said biochemist Rakesh Mogul, co-author of the study.
It is emphasized there that the atmosphere of Venus, cloudy, highly reflective and acidic, is composed mainly of carbon dioxide and small drops of water containing sulfuric acid. The scientists consider as possible areas of existence of microorganisms the dark spots in the clouds of Venus.