While the search for life and a place where humans could go next, many minds drift towards Mars. But, what about the other planets? In a paper published on March 30th, 2018 in Astrobiology an international team of researcher laid out a case for “the atmosphere of venus as a possible niche for extraterrestrial life.” So, perhaps it could support us as well.
How could a planet known so well as being a hothouse...according to Space.com “one-dry and hot enough to melt lead, with an atmospheric pressure 90 times greater than that of Earth at sea level.” ever support life? Well, as you may know there is a belief that Venus was once quite like Earth...roughly 2 billion years ago.
In the paper mentioned in introduction, the team presents a solid starting ground for why we should look at Venus, "Venus has had plenty of time to evolve life on its own," explains Limaye [the head of research for the paper], 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."
Even though Venus is subject to some extreme weather, it is not entirely impossible that there could not still be life lingering even on the surface. Take for example, an AL favorite: the water bear (tardigrades). Tardigrades’ ability to enter a state called cryptobiosis allows them to withstand extreme famine, heat, cold, and other inhospitable conditions. Shockingly, Tardigrades 30 years old were revived in a Japanese lab and not only did they live, they thrived an reproduced! Perhaps the tardigrades have a cousin up on Venus who can do the very same.
Even if life on the surface is non-existence, that doesn’t snuff out the light of the hope for life around Venus. Recently, there has been some research into the fact that there may not have been a climate-based extinction because its atmosphere and skies above are quite cozy, in fact, they are similar to Earth’s. Space.com posits, “ so it's possible that Venusian life — if it ever existed — didn't die out with the dramatic climate shift long ago but rather retreated into the clouds.”
However, there are some things we don’t quite know that still put Venus in question. For example, we’re not sure what the water situation is. In fact, there is a chance that the water on venus has been destroyed by “extensive lava flows in the last billion years…[which] likely have either destroyed or covered up the planet's earlier terrestrial history.
Cynthia Phillips, a planetary geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California recently said, "I think we should really take another look at Venus,"
The above image is entitled "Artist's conception of a balloon probe" and is in the public domain.