Life on the planet Venus seems almost impossible. However, a study recently published in the scientific journal Astrobiology puts forth a new hypothesis. One that proposes that forms of life may live within the heavy cloud cover that blankets this planet.
How Could the Clouds of Venus Possibly Sustain Life?
Calling Venus “inhospitable” is a gross understatement. Its surface temperatures reach nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The dense clouds of Venus, full of sulfuric acid, ozone, and carbon dioxide keep heat from escaping back into space. Its atmospheric pressure is of around 1300 pounds per square inch, 90 times higher than that of Earth.
It is believed, based on computer models of the planet’s evolution, that conditions on the surface were not always so unfavorable. Scientists also consider that Venus might have once been possibly able to support life on its surface.
Current observations show that UV light is being absorbed before it reaches the surface of the planet. As it is, this phenomenon cannot be accounted for on a purely chemical basis. The Astrobiology study expounds on ideas first proposed back in 1967.
These claim that as conditions on the surface of the planet became unfavorable for life on the ground, microscopic forms of life began to colonize the clouds of Venus. These could now be absorbing the UV light that hit the planet.
Although no water has been found on the surface of Venus, water vapor is plentiful in the atmosphere. The temperatures there are also presumably within the range that could support life.
Venus seems an unlikely place to find signs of life due to its harsh conditions. However, it has been theorized that microorganisms living in the clouds may account for the long-observed absorption of UV light. If science manages to prove there are, indeed, lifeforms on Venus, it may help us learn more about the evolution of life on Earth.
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