Life on Venus

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The atmosphere of Venus as viewed in ultraviolet by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter in 1979.

The speculation of life currently existing on Venus decreased significantly since the early 1960s, when spacecraft began studying Venus and it became clear that the conditions on Venus are extreme compared to those on Earth.

The fact that Venus is located closer to the Sun than Earth, raising temperatures on the surface to nearly 735 K (462 °C), the atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of Earth, and the extreme impact of the greenhouse effect, make water-based life as we know it unlikely on the surface of the planet. However, a few scientists have speculated that thermoacidophilic extremophile microorganisms might exist in the lower-temperature, acidic upper layers of the Venusian atmosphere.[1][2][3]

Historical views[edit]

In 1870, the British astronomer Richard Proctor said the existence of life on Venus was impossible near its equator,[4] but possible near its poles.

Since the late 1950s, increasingly clear evidence from various space probes showed Venus has an extreme climate, with a greenhouse effect generating a constant temperature of about 500 °C on the surface. The atmosphere contains sulfuric acid clouds and the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 90 bar, almost 100 times that of Earth and similar to that of more than 1,000 m (3,300 ft) deep in Earth's oceans. In such environment, and given the increasingly hostile characteristics of the Venusian weather, the chances of life as we know it are excluded from the surface of Venus. However, there are still some opinions in favor of such a possibility in the atmosphere.[5]

In September 1967, Carl Sagan and Harold Morowitz published an analysis of the issue of life on Venus to the journal Nature.[6]

Recent speculation[edit]

In the analysis of mission data from the Venera, Pioneer Venus and Magellan missions, it was discovered that carbonyl sulfide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide were present together in the upper atmosphere. Venera also detected large amounts of toxic chlorine just below the Venusian cloud cover.[7] Carbonyl sulfide is difficult to produce inorganically,[8] but it can be produced by volcanism.[9] Sulfuric acid is produced in the upper atmosphere by the Sun's photochemical action on carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and water vapour.[10]

Solar radiation constrains the atmospheric habitable zone to between 51 km (65 °C) and 62 km (−20 °C) altitude, within the acidic clouds.[3] It has been speculated that clouds in the atmosphere of Venus could contain chemicals that can initiate forms of biological activity.[11][12] It has been speculated that any hypothetical microorganisms inhabiting the atmosphere, if present, could employ ultraviolet light (UV) emitted by the Sun as an energy source, which could be an explanation for the dark lines observed in the UV photographs of Venus.[13][14]

It is also possible that life existed on Venus but not anymore. Assuming the process that delivered water to Earth was common to all the planets near the habitable zone, it has been estimated that liquid water could have existed on its surface for up to 600 million years during and shortly after the Late Heavy Bombardment, which could be enough time for simple life to form, but this figure can vary from as little as a few million years to as much as few billion.[15][16][17][18][19] This might also have given enough time for microbial life to evolve to be aerial.[20] There has been very little analysis of Venusian surface material, so it is possible that evidence of past life, if it ever existed, could be easy to find with a probe capable of surviving Venus's current atmospheric conditions.[6][21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Clark, Stuart (26 September 2003). "Acidic clouds of Venus could harbour life". New Scientist. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Redfern, Martin (25 May 2004). "Venus clouds 'might harbour life'". BBC News. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b Dartnell, Lewis R.; Nordheim, Tom Andre; Patel, Manish R.; Mason, Jonathon P.; et al. (September 2015). "Constraints on a potential aerial biosphere on Venus: I. Cosmic rays". Icarus. 257: 396–405. Bibcode:2015Icar..257..396D. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2015.05.006. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Proctor, Richard A., Other Worlds Than Ours: The Plurality of Worlds Studied Under the Light of Recent Scientific Researches. New York : J.A. Hill and Co., 1870. s. 94.
  5. ^ Venus as a Natural Laboratory for Search of Life in High Temperature Conditions: Events on the Planet on March 1, 1982, L. V. Ksanfomality, published in Astronomicheskii Vestnik, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Life on Venus". Astrobiology. 11 (9) – via Academic OneFile. 
  7. ^ Venus Revealed: A New Look Below the Clouds of Our Mysterious Twin Planet, David Grinspoon, ISBN 978-0-201-32839-4
  8. ^ Landis, Geoffrey A. (2003). "Astrobiology: the Case for Venus" (PDF). J. of the British Interplanetary Society. 56 (7/8): 250–254. Bibcode:2003JBIS...56..250L. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Seinfeld, J. (2006). Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. London: J. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-60119-595-1. 
  10. ^ "Venus Express: Acid clouds and lightning". European Space Agency (ESA). Retrieved 2016-09-08. 
  11. ^ David, Leonard (11 February 2003). "Life Zone on Venus Possible". Space.com. Archived from the original on 16 February 2003. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  12. ^ Dirk Schulze-Makuch; David H. Grinspoon; Ousama Abbas; Louis N. Irwin; Mark A. Bullock (March 2004). "A Sulfur-Based Survival Strategy for Putative Phototrophic Life in the Venusian Atmosphere.". Astrobiology. 4 (1): 11–18. Bibcode:2004AsBio...4...11S. doi:10.1089/153110704773600203. PMID 15104900. 
  13. ^ "Venus could be a haven for life". ABC News. 28 September 2002. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Schulze-Makuch, Dirk; Irwin, Louis N. (5 July 2004). "Reassessing the Possibility of Life on Venus: Proposal for an Astrobiology Mission". Astrobiology. 2 (2): 197–202. Bibcode:2002AsBio...2..197S. doi:10.1089/15311070260192264. PMID 12469368. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "Was Venus once a habitable planet?". European Space Agency. 24 June 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  16. ^ Nancy Atkinson (24 June 2010). "Was Venus once a waterworld?". Universe Today. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  17. ^ Henry Bortman (26 August 2004). "Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs are Probably There'". Space.com. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "NASA Climate Modeling Suggests Venus May Have Been Habitable". NASA.gov. NASA. August 11, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2016. 
  19. ^ Michael J. Way (2 August 2016). "Was Venus the First Habitable World of our Solar System?'". arxiv.org. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Did the Early Venus Harbor Life? (Weekend Feature)". The Daily Galaxy. 2 June 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  21. ^ David Shiga (10 October 2007). "Did Venus's ancient oceans incubate life?". New Scientist. Retrieved 22 May 2016.