A composite image of the planet Venus as seen by the Japanese probe Akatsuki. The clouds of Venus could have environmental conditions conducive to microbial life.
Credit: JAXA

 

Nobody likes to have their life adrift.

But on Venus, the clouds of that hellish world could be a niche for extraterrestrial microbial life.

An international team of researchers led by planetary scientist Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center lays out a case that the hunt for life beyond Earth should also include the clouds of Venus.

 

 

 

Limaye carries out his research as a NASA participating scientist in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akatsuki mission to Venus.

Dark patches

“Venus shows some episodic dark, sulfuric rich patches, with contrasts up to 30–40 percent in the ultraviolet, and muted in longer wavelengths. These patches persist for days, changing their shape and contrasts continuously and appear to be scale dependent,” says Limaye in a university press statement.

The particles that make up the dark patches have almost the same dimensions as some bacteria on Earth, although the instruments that have sampled Venus’ atmosphere to date are incapable of distinguishing between materials of an organic or inorganic nature.

The patches could be something akin to the algae blooms that occur routinely in the lakes and oceans of Earth, only these would need to be sustained in the Venusian atmosphere.

Proposed VAMP, or Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, is a craft that flies like a plane but floats like a blimp and could stay aloft in the planet’s cloud layer for up to a year gathering data and samples.
Credit: Northrop Grumman

Russian mission

The Wisconsin scientist and his colleagues are hopeful that an exobiological research chapter can be opened at Venus. There are ongoing discussions about possible NASA participation in Russia’s Roscosmos Venera-D mission, now slated for the late 2020s.

Current plans for Venera-D might include an orbiter, a lander and a NASA-contributed surface station and maneuverable aerial platform.

This new research and speculation can be found in a paper published online today in the journal Astrobiology.

Go to:

Venus’ Spectral Signatures and the Potential for Life in the Clouds

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/ast.2017.1783

One Response to “Venus Clouds – A Niche for Microbial Life?”

  • Lisa Staires says:

    Hello,
    I’ve been thinking on the possibility for microbial life on Venus. I’m a student at the American Public University and I have the idea of an orbiter that was designed to collect samples and bring them back to Earth, but since it seems we don’t have definitive proof yet maybe I should wait on this idea.
    Thanks for reading,
    Lisa Staires

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