With an atmosphere acidic enough to remove skin from bones, Venus is far from what we could think of as hospitable, but new study supports the idea that the cocoons of life could exist in the planets corrosive clouds.
Researchers have identified a chemical pathway by which the sulfuric acid droplets that linger in the clouds of Venus could be neutralized, perhaps to the extent that life is able to survive on this hostile world.
At the beginning of this chemical pathway is the biological production of ammonia, clues to the probes they detected passing by Venus in the 1970s. Small amounts of ammonia could dissolve in sulfuric acid droplets, according to this new study. This process would turn at least some of the acid into salts, turning the liquid droplets into a slurry with a pH that we know life can tolerate.
“As a result, clouds are no more acidic than some extreme terrestial environments that harbor life,” the researchers write in their published paper. “Life could be making its own environment on Venus.
Ammonia should not occur in significant quantities on Venus, as the limited hydrogen required would be competitive-snapped in other reactions. The researchers suggest that life could have chemical benefits to overcome it, representing the ammonia signal that we are recorded on Venus, among other anomalies.
These other anomalies include small oxygen concentrations that should not be present, High water vapor levels & non-orthographic particles that do not match the round droplets of sulfuric acid. The chemical modeling of the laboratory confirmed that these strange events could be explained by ammonia producing life on Venus.
A similar process occurs in some places on Earth, and even in our own stomachs, where ammonia also has the role of neutralizing an acidic environment to make it more hospitable. At least on paper, it does.
Lightning, volcanic eruptions & meteorites strikes are all other possible sources of ammonia on Venus, but according to researchers’ calculations, they are not producing enough. Biological life could potentially do it.
“No life to our knowledge could survive in the droplets of Venus,” says planetologist Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “But the point is, maybe there is life & it’s changing its environment to make it livable.
This is far from saying that there is life on Venus, but it is an interesting hypothesis that fits the observations we have at this time. Additionally, the researchers have compiled a list of additional checks that future Venus spacecraft missions can perform to see if this new theory holds.
And this is by no means the only interesting discussion going on about Venus. Some suggest that there could be phosphine in the atmosphere as well – which, again, could hint at biological life – but we’ll have to wait for a closer look at the planet to clear up many of these unknowns. .
“Venus has persistent and unexplained atmospheric anomalies which are incredible,” says Seager. “Leave room for the possibility of life.