Pockets of Life in Venus’s Atmosphere?

Despite its inhospitable appearance, Venus may have been able to harbor life, particularly in its atmosphere: unexplained chemical anomalies are detected, including the possible presence of ammonia. MIT researchers are proposing a series of chemical processes enabled by the simple presence of ammonia (of potential biological origin in the study) to neutralize the acidic environment of the atmosphere.

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[EN VIDÉO] Magellan reveals topography of Venus
This view is a brief tour of the overall terrain of Venus as revealed by radar aboard the Magellan spacecraft. The elevation of the terrain is color coded, with blue and green representing low altitudes and red representing high altitudes. The two great “continents”, or highlands, Aphrodite Terra and Ishtar Terra, are highlighted by the Maxwell Montes mountain range and Mat Mons, which is currently a large dormant volcano.

Sometimes they have some similarities (size, Mass, Combination), Vesper Our nearest planetary neighbour. With an average temperature of 460 °C, its surface is constantly swept from vents flying at about 100 m/s, creating conditions largely unfavorable for one’s survival life form Known. as for him Atmosphere, it’s 96%. is made of carbon dioxide, and is much denser than Earth’s atmosphere, a. with Expression At land of 93 bar (that is, about 93 times the pressure at the surface of the earth). It also has thick features clouds dioxide compound sulfur and dropssulphuric acid, sometimes in the core of the rainacid Sulfuric acid (which evaporates before reaching the surface).

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Suspected of harboring favorable conditions for life on an inhospitable planet?

Despite these uninvited characteristics, many parameters lead to the scientists to suspect Vesper To be able to harbor life, especially in its atmosphere: first, at an altitude of about 50 km, the pressure and temperature are similar to those of the Earth’s surface (about 1 bar, and the temperature varies from 0 to 50 is ) ° C), providing much milder conditions than the surface of Venus. with this, anomalies Chemicals that remain obscure have been found in Venusian clouds, such as low oxygen levels, non-spherical particles (as opposed to spherical droplets of sulfuric acid), and the presence of even small concentrations of water vapor. The vertical profiles of sulfur dioxide and water vapor abundances in the atmosphere of Venus also seem difficult to explain. Even more intriguing, the presence of ammonia was briefly detected by probes in the 1970s. Vesper 8 and pioneer Venus, but its origin in the atmosphere of Venus remains unclear.

MIT scientist (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Cardiff University and Cambridge University, sought to identify chemical reactions taking place in Venus’s atmosphere to explain the observed discrepancies. In their model, reactions are triggered by the presence of ammonia, which makes it possible to trigger the domino effect by chemical reactions that, on the one hand, are able to explain the anomalies found, but also be able to neutralize droplets of sulfuric acid. Are: By dissolving in droplets of sulfuric acid, ammonia can neutralize the acid and trap sulfur dioxide in the form of ammonium sulfite salts. This trapping of sulfur dioxide would explain the discrepancy in its vertical abundance. The droplets containing ammonium salt will then have conditions corresponding to the atmosphere acidophiles terrestrial, making them “potentially habitable”.

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A biological origin for ammonia?

Although the source of ammonia is currently unknown, scientists speculate that biological production may be involved in its presence, with other non-biological processes such as being unable to explain it. Volcano or Lightning, In addition, ammonia (NH3) occurs inhydrogen, which is present only in very small amounts in the atmosphere of Venus: a gas That which is not related to its environment is easily suspected of being linked to biological processes.

If Venusian ammonia is indeed produced by some form of life, the scientists participating in the study take their model even further: the reaction producing ammonia that is most energy efficient would also produce oxygen. , to explain the detection of O2 in the layers of clouds.

This model therefore demonstrates the possibility of chemical processes explaining the anomalies found in the atmosphere of Venus, but also including a biological source capable of producing ammonia, which would provide the conditions for the existence of any form of life. Makes it more customizable. In a nutshell, this study suggests that life can create its own environment: Vesper, This hypothesis is fascinating, and scientists have compiled a list of chemical signatures on which future missions (including missions) to Venus’ clouds. Venus Life Finder) should focus the effort to verify it.

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

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