Life on Venus

By Danna Beltran

PLANET-C Project Team/JAXA

Venus image, made with data recorded by Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft in 2016.

Venus, named after the Roman goddess, roasts at temperatures of hundreds of degrees, and is cloaked by clouds that contain droplets of corrosive sulfuric acid. Because of this, few focus on the rocky planet, as a habitat for something living. Leading scientists to study signs of life elsewhere, usually gazing out to Mars, and more recently, icy moons of the giant planets. Although, on Monday, researchers announced that they spotted phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere, at an altitude where temperatures and pressures are similar to those here on Earth, at sea level. After much analysis, scientists declared that something living is the only explanation for the chemical’s source. Some researchers still question this hypothesis, and suggest that the gas could be a result from an unexplained atmospheric or geologic process on a planet that remains mysterious. Nevertheless, this discovery will encourage some planetary scientists to wonder whether humanity has overlooked a planet that may have once been more Earth-like than any other planet in our solar system. As Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA, stated on Twitter: “It’s time to prioritize Venus.” 

 

This is exciting news for many, as Venus is the closest planet to Earth. Scientists believed that Venus was once covered in water and possessed an atmosphere where life, as we know it, could have flourished. Now, Venus has transformed into something close to Hell, with an atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide gas, and surface temperatures that average more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The dense atmosphere of Venus exerts a pressure of more than 1,300 pounds per square inch on anything at the surface, equivalent to being 3,000 feet underwater in the ocean. Unfortunately, this situation makes the hellish planet hard to visit or research it.

 

There are reasons to believe this discovery may be life changing for human kind, but there’s always going to be that challenge of finding life anywhere close to here on Earth difficult. So let me leave you with these questions: is it ethical to spend all this money and time finding life on another planet when we have everything we need here on Earth? Shouldn’t we be using those resources to find solutions to our planet's problems, instead of turning a blind eye?     

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