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The clouds of Venus are not suitable for life

The clouds of Venus are not suitable for life

Venus, the same planet they were found on Some chemical ‘signatures’ compatible with lifeAnd the future destination space missions, probably Not habitable at all, not even for living beings capable of surviving in infernal places. Its clouds do not contain enough water, and the little available is contained in droplets consisting mainly of sulfuric acid. These are the conclusions of a study published in natural astronomy.

Discovery of phosphine. On September 14, 2020, the same scientific journal made this announcement The discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, a gas produced primarily by anaerobic biological organisms (which do not need oxygen for their metabolism). The presence of the compound in a region of Venus’ clouds between 53 and 62 km from the surface indicates at least that chemical or geological processes are underway on the planet. We can’t explain it. In the following months, the original study was questioned by other researchers, who argued that phosphine levels were much lower. Or they weren’t even there.

The work just published indicates that – phosphine or not – the clouds of Venus are in no way compatible with life, even the most extreme ones, at least if we think of life as it evolved on our planet. Even if temperatures in that layer of Venus’s atmosphere are almost “terrestrial”, in reality there is no water to support life.

Showdown record. The analysis, led by John Halsworth of Queen’s University Belfast, begins with two lines of research: one that studies life in extreme conditions here on Earth, and one that detects temperature and pressure on other planets, to understand whether water is present on them. And in what form. On Earth, organisms that can tolerate water scarcity or highly acidic environments are very protozoan. Mushrooms that live in salty and practically dry environments hold a record of surviving in dry conditions. While bacteria that live at -0.06 pH are the most acid-resistant organism. But when you move to Venus, even these superpowers are no longer enough.

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Too acid. Scientists have in fact estimated that the atmosphere of Venus will be like this relative humidity 0.4%, which is 100 times less than the minimum tolerance for any terrestrial organism. Even if we wanted to be optimistic, and imagine that Venus had developed ways to extract water from the rarefied atmosphere, the biggest problem would be sulfuric acid, which would make up 78% of the weight of the droplets that make up Venus’ clouds. formed. We understand that there will be very little water left. As if that weren’t enough, sulfuric acid “dries out cell systems, removing water from biomolecules, reducing hydrophobic interactions and damaging the integrity of the plasma membrane.” In short, it will create fundamental problems for any existing life form.

These considerations apply to life as we know it: Basis on the water. Other liquids have very different properties, ranging from boiling and freezing points. At the moment, we don’t know if life could also be based on such different chemical processes, but it’s interesting to think that it could be elsewhere.