The second planet from the Sun got its name inhonor of the ancient Roman goddess of love Venus: her movement across the sky was recorded at the beginning of the second millennium BC. Venus is often called the "sister" of the Earth and for good reason: in 2019, a team of researchers proved that billions of years ago, Venus rotated in the same direction and at the same speed as the Earth. This movement allowed the planet to keep the oceans of water in liquid form, but the strongest tides led to a slowdown in the rotation of Venus. These changes, in turn, led to what we see today: Venus lost its liquid oceans and became the most hellish place in the solar system. The temperature on its surface reaches 460 degrees Celsius. And yet, the results of a new study show that Venus once really had life - the planet's dense atmosphere with carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets surrounding it makes possible the emergence of any kind of life on the planet. Who would have thought!
Are you really twins?
Venus is one of the closest neighbors of our planet.They are so similar in size that NASA has awarded it the nickname "Earth's twin." And everything would be great, except for a small "but" - the atmosphere of Venus is filled with carbon dioxide and is constantly shrouded in thick yellowish clouds of sulfuric acid. These clouds trap heat, creating a runaway greenhouse effect, and atmospheric pressure is 93 times higher than Earth's.
Yet some scholars argue that inmicroscopic life can exist in the atmosphere of Venus. In September 2020, a team of scientists discovered phosphine gases in the clouds of Venus. By itself, the presence of phosphine is not a form of life - it is just a gas. However, phosphine is usually produced by anaerobic bacteria that live under oxygen-deprived conditions. You can read more about how phosphine was discovered on Venus here.
The surface of Venus is uninhabitable, butThe cloud layer - about 50 km above the surface - is quite similar to the lower layers of the Earth's atmosphere and could theoretically support some microbial life, explained astrophysicist Avi Loeb of Harvard University in February 2021.
But there is skepticism on this issue.It cannot be ruled out that the data obtained in 2020 was misinterpreted and in fact the discovered molecules may be sulfur dioxide, which is common on Venus. It turns out that the final answer can only be obtained with the help of new missions, for example, a probe that will take samples of the planet's cloud layer.
Read even more fascinating articles about the planets of the solar system on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are regularly published articles that are not on the site.
Searching for life on Venus
A series of projects called "Missions forthe search for life on Venus, "led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The first mission is scheduled for 2023 on an Electron rocket provided by California-based Rocket Lab.
This rocket will send a probe into the five-montha journey that ultimately only takes three minutes in the clouds. The probe will be equipped with a specially designed laser device with which it can detect complex chemicals inside the clouds, the scientists explain.
In case any impurities orfluorescence will be detected, this data may indicate that there is more in the atmosphere of Venus than meets the eye. In fact, there are many mysteries in the Venetian clouds, anomalies regarding the chemicals and elements present, as well as some particles of unknown composition.
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If there is life on Venus, then it is almostmost likely microbial, since clouds are essentially the only part of the planet that is potentially habitable. And this is even after taking into account many existing problems, such as the off-scale concentration of sulfuric acid, for example. Yet how can a toxic atmosphere contain life?
Life in the clouds
We will find out the answer very soon - the results of the mission2023 will unambiguously shed light on the mysteries of the Venusian clouds, and another mission is planned for 2026. This time, scientists will send a larger probe to the second planet from the Sun that can remain in the clouds of Venus for extended periods of time, which means it can collect more data. The project will culminate in the return of a sample of Venus's atmosphere to Earth.
In the meantime, scientists from MassachusettsInstitute of Technology, Cardiff University and Cambridge University have announced the results of new research - perhaps there is life on Venus. The results showed that the presence of ammonia can neutralize the acidic environment of Venus and create habitable space in the planet's clouds.
In the course of their work, the researchers created a setchemical processes to show that the presence of ammonia on Venus will lead to a series of chemical reactions that neutralize the surrounding sulfuric acid droplets. This is how “life could create its own habitat on Venus,” says the scientific paper.
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Scientists believe that ammonia could be formed inas a result of a biological process on Venus, and not as a result of lightning or volcanic eruptions, as stated in previous studies. The dense atmosphere of Venus with carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets surrounding it makes possible the emergence of any kind of life on the planet.
There is a very acidic environment on Earth, wherelife is indeed inhabited, but it is not at all like the environment on Venus - unless life neutralizes some of these droplets, ”says Sarah Seeger of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of the new study.
In the next ten to fifteen years to VenusIt is planned to launch two spacecraft from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), which are likely to finally answer the question of whether there is life on the second planet from the Sun. Look forward to!