Venusian Microbe Article

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this view of Venus, fully covered by clouds made of sulfuric acid. Researchers say they have seen evidence that the atmosphere contains concentrations of water droplets, exhibiting chemistry that may hint at microbial life.

Could microbes live in Venusian atmosphere?

Scientists believe that microbes could be living in the atmosphere of Venus, the nearest planet to Earth.  Dirk Schulze-Makuch and his colleague Louis Irwin at the University of Texas at El Paso, have been studying conditions in a region of the atmosphere of the planet that has a high concentration of water droplets.

Using data from the Russian Venera space missions and NASA’s Pioneer, Venus and Magellan probes, they noticed chemical oddities that they think could be explained by the presence of microbes.  They noticed an unexpected absence of carbon monoxide and found hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, two gases that react with each other and are rarely found together unless something is producing them.       

Dr. Schulze-Makuch presented his theory at the European Workshop on Astrobiology in Graz, Austria.  He thinks that bugs living in the Venusian clouds could be combining sulfur dioxide with carbon monoxide and possibly hydrogen to produce either hydrogen sulfide or carbonyl sulfide in a metabolism similar to that of some early Earth bugs.  Other scientists are skeptical of the claim, because more than tiny droplets of water are needed to support life.  Dr. Schulze-Makuch counters that the temperature of Venus was once much cooler and there could have been oceans on the planet.  "Life could have started there and retreated to stable niches once the runaway greenhouse effect began," he said.

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