Feeds

Scientist seeks alien cloud-dwelling bug

Life on Venus?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Its surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, and it rains sulphuric acid, but US scientists think there might yet be life on Venus, floating in its sulphurous clouds.

The existence of life on Venus depends on what the planet was like billions of years ago. The current theory is that when the solar system was young, Venus and Earth were very much alike, and it is possible that there was even surface water on our sister planet.

If the transformation was slow enough, life may have been able to get an initial foothold, according to according to Louis Irwin of the University of Texas at El Paso. He told The BBC"It may well have been Earth-like long enough for life to either emerge or be transported there".

Once established, life on Earth has adapted to almost every available environment. On Earth, bacteria even live and reproduce in the clouds, and Caltech's Professor Andrew Ingersoll thinks that microbes might be able to do the same on Venus.

In a report submitted to the journal of Astrobiology, Professor Ingersoll suggests microbes may be able to eke out a living in the thick clouds that cloak the planet, protected from the sun by sulphur compounds. He is not alone: there is now a proposal with Nasa for a mission to go there and find out.

However, others believe that it was the emergence of life on Earth that stopped our planet undergoing a similar fate. Life on Earth first appeared in the oceans, gradually sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, locking it away in limestone. If the same had happened on Venus, the theory goes, it would have resulted in a similar transformation there.

But Venus is 30 per cent closer to the sun. It is possible that even if life did get started, the oceans boiled away. The clouds would have been the only refuge. "If you think about what life needs in a broad sense then the clouds of Venus might actually be a habitat where something could live," commented David Grinspoon, of the South West Research Institute in Colorado.

He argues that the organisms would, neccesarily, have evolved to take advantage of the conditions, and could have found a way to exploit the abundant UV radiation: "One lifeform's deadly radiation may be another lifeform's lunch".

The mission proposal, now with Nasa, suggests "sending a probe to Venus, not to the surface, but to the clouds". It would be a balloon-like floating craft that would collect samples before launching back into space off from the atmosphere to return to earth. A surface mission would be much more difficult: the atmospheric pressure is 90 times that at sea-level on Earth. ®

Related stories

Cassini images delight star gazers
Opportunity knocked by Martian rock
Fireflies aid hunt for ET

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.