Could UV-Adapted Microbial Life Exist in the Atmosphere of Venus?

Venus-artst-lightning Scientists suspect that Venus's atmosphere might hide extraterrestrial lifeforms, and in the ultimate safari ever, they want to go there and capture them with a flying balloon.  Interplanetary travel, extraterrestrial life, and Venusian airships – anyone doing anything other than science is missing out.

Venus doesn't score very highly when we think of life-capable planets – with surface pressures twenty times those of Earth and temperatures which can melt tin and vaporise mercury, it's not a a good place for organics.  In fact, it's not a good place for Terminators.  But go up far enough and you find clouds with Earth-like temperatures, pressures, even chemistry (at least as far as original ingredients go).  The fact that Venus boiled off all its oceans and turned them into sulfuric acid doesn't cancel out the fact there's water and heat aplenty.

In fact, the sulphur might help.  High above the Venusian surface the atmosphere is bathed in ultraviolet radiation, aka "That stuff that burns big things and kills small ones", but Professor Ingersoll (of the Californian Institute of Technology) and colleagues believe that extraplanetary microbes could learn to use these chemicals as a sunscreen – if they haven't adapted to UV altogether.

We've already seen Earth-borne bacteria surviving high in the clouds or in acidic environments, and the fact we haven't seen both at the same time is only because Earth doesn't have places like that.  Some suggest that Venus's conversion from an early Earth-alike to a fair approximation of hell might have been slow – slow enough to allow life to occur, then evolve to adapt to a narrowing habitable zone.

There's even a NASA option to fly there, deploy a floating collector, and rocket the samples back to Earth for analysis.  Not only might there be other life in the universe – they might live right next door.

The Daily Galaxy via

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