Today’s Top Space Headline: NASA Scientist –“Are Dark Spots on Clouds of Venus Microbial Life?”

 

Venus-lightning

 

"Venus has had plenty of time to evolve life on its own," explains Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center, noting that some models suggest Venus once had a habitable climate with liquid water on its surface for as long as 2 billion years. "That's much longer than is believed to have occurred on Mars."


In a paper published online on March 30, 2018 in the journal Astrobiology, an international team of researchers led by planetary scientist Limaye lays out a case for the atmosphere of Venus as a possible niche for extraterrestrial microbial life.

 

Limaye, who conducts his research as a NASA participating scientist in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akatsuki mission to Venus, was eager to revisit the idea of exploring the planet's atmosphere after a chance meeting at a workshop with paper co-author Grzegorz Slowik of Poland's University of Zielona Góra.

Slowik made him aware of bacteria on Earth with light-absorbing properties similar to those of unidentified particles that make up unexplained dark patches observed in the clouds of Venus. Spectroscopic observations, particularly in the ultraviolet, show that the dark patches are composed of concentrated sulfuric acid and other unknown light-absorbing particles.

The possibility of microbial life existing in Venus' clouds was first suggested in 1967 by biophysicist Harold Morowitz and Carl Sagan. Decades later, the planetary scientists David Grinspoon, Mark Bullock and their colleagues expanded on the idea.

A series of space probes to the planet launched between 1962 and 1978 showed that the temperature and pressure conditions in the lower and middle portions of the Venusian atmosphere — altitudes between 40 and 60 kilometers (25-27 miles) — would not preclude microbial life. The hellish surface conditions on the planet, however , are known to be inhospitable, with temperatures soaring above 450 degrees Celsius (860 degrees Fahrenheit).

On Earth, terrestrial microorganisms — mostly bacteria — are capable of being swept into the atmosphere, where they have been found alive at altitudes as high as 41 kilometers (25 miles) by scientists using specially equipped balloons, according to study co-author David J. Smith of NASA's Ames Research Center.

There is also a growing catalog of extreme microbes known to inhabit incredibly harsh environments on our planet, including the hot springs of Yellowstone, deep ocean hydrothermal vents, the toxic sludge of polluted areas, and in acidic lakes worldwide.

"On Earth, we know that life can thrive in very acidic conditions, can feed on carbon dioxide, and produce sulfuric acid," says Rakesh Mogul, a professor of biological chemistry at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a co-author on the new paper. He notes that the cloudy, highly reflective and acidic atmosphere of Venus is composed mostly of carbon dioxide and water droplets containing sulfuric acid.

The Daily Galaxy via Astrobiology and

LibertImage credit: ESA

Most Popular Space & Science Headlines

Stephen Hawking's Great Question –"Why Isn't the Milky Way Crawling With Mechanical or Biological Life?"

"Alien Minds" –'Artificial Intelligence Is Already Out There, and It's Billions of Years Old' (VIDEO)

"Point of No Return" –MIT Scientist Predicts the Event Horizon for Earth's 6th Mass Extinction 

A Neutron Star Collision in Our Milky Way Neighborhood Could Destroy Earth

 "300-Million Nuclear Bombs" –New Insights Into Global Impact of Titanic Chicxulub Mass-Extinction Event

Stephen Hawking: Wake Up, Science Deniers! –"Earth is Morphing into Venus" (WATCH Today's 'Galaxy' Stream)

"Evolutionary Leap?" AI is Mimicing the Human Brain –"But Several Orders of Magnitude Faster and More Efficiently

China Creates a Laser of Mind-Boggling Power –"Could Rip Space Asunder, Breaking the Vacuum"

"Stop Saying That Dinosaurs Went Extinct. They Didn't"

 

3b57691f5b2db048deaae23af1facc06

 

 

 

 

"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily