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Thread: Microbes in Venus clouds?

  1. #1
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    Microbes in Venus clouds?

    Spectral signatures might mean life https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2017.1783
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Very interesting paper, Tom. Thanks for finding and sharing the news.

    I found a summary of the study in Astrobiology Magazine.

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    I reserve the right to maintain extreme skepticism as to this hypothesis.
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    I reserve the right to hope we send another aerostat probe to plumb these mysteries.

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    A summary of the article from R&D magazine

    A team led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison*has*revisited an old theory that the atmosphere of Venus*may*contain extraterrestrial microbial life.*

    According to planetary scientist Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center, some models suggest*that*Venus*had a habitable climate with liquid water on its surface for as long as two billion years.**

    "That's much longer than is believed to have occurred on Mars," Limaye said in a statement. "Venus has had plenty of time to evolve life on its own."*

    Terrestrial microorganisms—mostly bacteria—are capable of being swept into the atmosphere on Earth**where they have been found alive at altitudes as high as 25 miles by scientists using specially equipped balloons.*

    There is also a growing catalog of microbes that inhabit extremely harsh environments on Earth, including in the hot springs of Yellowstone, deep ocean hydrothermal vents, the toxic sludge of polluted areas and in acidic lakes around the globe.*

    According to Rakesh Mogul, a professor of biological chemistry at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,*the*cloudy, highly reflective and acidic atmosphere of Venus is mostly made of carbon dioxide and water droplets that contain sulfuric acid.*
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    I reserve the right to hope we send another aerostat probe to plumb these mysteries.
    Agree! Actually the paper that the OP links to mentions a project called Venus Atmospheric Mobile Platform (VAMP), which would stay aloft via a combination of aerostatics and aerodynamics. More information about VAMP here.

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    Venus has quite the potential for life high in its clouds, especially in a region where temperatures and winds are similar to here on Earth. If life can use the very little water that's available, microbes could survive there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmic Mathew View Post
    Venus has quite the potential for life high in its clouds, especially in a region where temperatures and winds are similar to here on Earth. If life can use the very little water that's available, microbes could survive there.
    Yes. The amount of water vapour may be low by Earth standards, but there's a measurable amount of water vapour there, and at the atmospheric level they're talking about, the temperature and pressure allow condensation into droplets of liquid water.

    The sulphuric acid in the clouds may help to concentrate the water into droplets, because sulphuric is hygroscopic, i.e. sulphuric forms bonds with water without changing the water molecule into something else. (This point is mentioned in the paper that the first post of this thread links to.) Of course, any microbes there would have to be a sort that can handle sulphuric acid...

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    Life has a tendency to cling on like anything once it's begun. It looks likely that Venus at least went through a period where life as we know it could have developed. Maybe this are the last remnants of that ancient lineage, cut short but not entirely snuffed out. Definitely worth some investigating, I'd say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    I reserve the right to maintain extreme skepticism as to this hypothesis.
    Read what the Indians found way up in our atmosphere and you just might change your mind.

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    It appears the paper quoted in the OP makes no references I can find, as to the significance of the discovery of Venus' persistent ionospheric ambipolar electric field. (See 'The electric wind of Venus: A global and persistent“polar wind”-like ambipolar electric field sufficient for the direct escape of heavy ionospheric ions', Collinson etal, June 2016).

    The discovery of this field is global to Venus, and has most likely been accelerating any ions lighter than 18 amu (which includes O+ and all water group ions) to escape velocity since the planet formed, provided one buys into the idea of it being caused by proximity to the Sun and high photoionization rates, (compared with planets beyond its orbit). The measurement of this field is thus far unique in the Solar System and is more than 5 times Earth's, (for eg).

    This process casts serious empirically measured 'shade' on Limaye's arm-waving statement of: 'some models suggest that Venus had a habitable climate with liquid water on its surface for as long as two billion years'. The point here is that the E-field's influence is not just another hypothetical model .. there's measured data supporting it.

    Even if Venusian 'life' did find itself stranded high in the atmosphere, it would also have had to contend with this process, (as well as the impact on its own molecular integrity).

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    REM: Interesting point, a little off topic but still interesting.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018IJAsB..17...96W

    Prior indigenous technological species

    Wright, Jason T.
    01/2018

    One of the primary open questions of astrobiology is whether there is extant or extinct life elsewhere the solar system. Implicit in much of this work is that we are looking for microbial or, at best, unintelligent life, even though technological artefacts might be much easier to find. Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) work on searches for alien artefacts in the solar system typically presumes that such artefacts would be of extrasolar origin, even though life is known to have existed in the solar system, on Earth, for eons. But if a prior technological, perhaps spacefaring, species ever arose in the solar system, it might have produced artefacts or other technosignatures that have survived to present day, meaning solar system artefact SETI provides a potential path to resolving astrobiology's question. Here, I discuss the origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species, which might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and, ultimately, plate tectonics may have erased most such evidence if the species lived Gyr ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures might be expected to be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer solar system.
    ===============================================

    REM: A negative view of the issue.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018arXiv180103146K

    Venus: The Making of an Uninhabitable World

    Kane, Stephen R.; Arney, Giada; Crisp, David; Domagal-Goldman, Shawn; Glaze, Lori S.; Goldblatt, Colin; Lenardic, Adrian; Unterborn, Cayman; Way, Michael J.
    01/2018

    The goals of the astrobiology community are focussed on developing a framework for the detection of biosignatures, or evidence thereof, on objects inside and outside of our solar system. A fundamental aspect of understanding the limits of habitable environments and detectable signatures is the study of where the boundaries of such environments can occur. Thus, the need to study the creation, evolution, and frequency of hostile environments for habitability is an integral part of the astrobiology story. These provide the opportunity to understand the bifurcation, between habitable and uninhabitable. The archetype of such a planet is the Earth's sister planet, Venus, and provides a unique opportunity to explore the processes that created a completely uninhabitable environment and thus define the conditions that can rule out bio-related signatures. We advocate a continued comprehensive study of our sister planet, including models of early atmospheres, compositional abundances, and Venus-analog frequency analysis from current and future exoplanet data. Moreover, new missions to Venus to provide in-situ data are necessary.

    ===============================================

    REM: I got the impression that airborne life would eventually be shifted into hostile areas of the atmosphere before long, meaning there's either no life in the air or else the organisms reproduce at an amazing rate where conditions are best... but have not been detected in enormous bunches.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P53A2648L

    Dynamics in the Modern Upper Atmosphere of Venus: Zonal Wind Transition to Subsolar-to-Antisolar Flow

    Livengood, T. A.; Kostiuk, T.; Hewagama, T.; Fast, K. E.
    12/2017

    We observed Venus on 19-23 Aug 2010 (UT) to investigate equatorial wind velocities from above the cloud tops through the lower thermosphere. Measurements were made from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility using the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Winds and Composition. High-resolution spectra were acquired on a CO2 pressure-broadened absorption feature that probes the lower mesosphere ( 70 km altitude) with a non-LTE core emission of the same transition that probes the lower thermosphere ( 110 km). The resolving power of lambda/Deltalambda≈3×107 determines line-of-sight velocity from Doppler shifts to high precision. The altitude differential between the features enables investigating the transition from zonal wind flow near the cloud tops to subsolar-to-antisolar flow in the thermosphere. The fully-resolved carbon dioxide transition was measured near 952.8808 cm-1 (10.494 µm) rest frequency at the equator with 1 arcsec field-of-view on Venus (24 arcsec diameter) distributed about the central meridian and across the terminator at ±15° intervals in longitude. The non-LTE emission is solar-pumped and appears only on the daylight side, probing subsolar-to-antisolar wind velocity vector flowing radially from the subsolar point through the terminator, which was near the central meridian in these observations and had zero line-of-sight wind projection at the terminator. The velocity of the zonal flow is approximately uniform, with maximum line-of-sight projection at the limb, and can be measured by the frequency of the absorption line on both the daylight and dark side. Variations in Doppler shift between the observable features and the differing angular dependence of the contributing wind phenomena thus provide independent mechanisms to distinguish the dynamical processes at the altitude of each observed spectral feature. Winds up to >100 m/s were determined in previous investigations with uncertainties of order 10 m/s or less.

    ===============================================

    REM: Venus might have had water early on, but that doesn't help now.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P53A2645M

    Near Infrared Multispectral Mapping of Venus Supports the Hypothesis that Tessera Plateau Material was Formed in the Presence of Surface Water

    Mueller, N. T.; Tsang, C.; Nunes, D. C.; Helbert, J.; Dyar, M. D.; Smrekar, S. E.
    12/2017

    The VIRTIS instrument on Venus Express observed surface thermal emission from the surface. Studies of 1020nm data showed that tessera plateaus, intensely tectonically deformed highlands that predate most other terrains, have significantly lower thermal emission than other highlands. Lower thermal emission could be due either to lower surface emissivity, supporting the hypothesis that tessera are analogous to continental crust on Earth, or to a bias of Magellan altimetry, which does not fully resolve the topographic relief of tessera terrain. To eliminate this ambiguity, we additionally investigate the spectral windows at 1100 and 1180nm. Data are reduced to surface emissivity using an atmospheric radiative transfer model to account for atmospheric scattering and absorption/emission. Magellan altimetry was used to model atmospheric column height and surface temperature. The model uses a binary (collision-induced) absorption coefficient for each window. It fits absolute radiance and gradient with surface elevation reasonably well, although there are indications that the assumed adiabatic temperature lapse rate is not appropriate globally. The 1100nm band has a relatively low signal-to-noise ratio at the latitudes of the tessera plateaus, but Alpha Regio is visible in both the 1020 and the 1180nm band. The difference in emissivity between Alpha and the adjacent corona Eve, which has a similar elevation as Alpha, is 3.6% at 1020nm, but only 2% at 1180nm. The altimetry bias equivalent to the 1020nm deviation is 230 m, while the equivalent is only 70m at 1180nm. An altimetry bias therefore cannot fully explain the observations, and there must be a real difference in emissivity. The observations are consistent with the hypothesis that Alpha Regio has a more felsic composition. The emissivity spectra of granites at Venus temperatures are lower than those of basalt at 1020nm, but the difference decreases or vanishes towards the 1180nm window. The most plausible explanation for continent-sized felsic plateaus would be a formation analogous to Earth's continents, i.e. differentiation of basaltic crust in the presence of water.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Read what the Indians found way up in our atmosphere and you just might change your mind.
    Isn't this how The Andromeda Strain started?
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    REM: I got the impression that airborne life would eventually be shifted into hostile areas of the atmosphere before long, meaning there's either no life in the air or else the organisms reproduce at an amazing rate where conditions are best...
    Reproducing at an amazing rate is something microbes are good at, Roger. A common species of Earth bacteria, E coli can double in number every 20 minutes where conditions are best.

    but have not been detected in enormous bunches.
    We've hardly begun to study the clouds of Venus, but have already detected a range of intriguing features, including microscopic objects which we haven't yet looked at close-up...

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    I would be very curious if any Venusian microbes share any lineage with earthican ones. Given there is some potential of microbes getting cross deposited in our solar system, I would be unshocked if they shared DNA characteristics with us... but painfully disappointed if they did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCoyote View Post
    I would be very curious if any Venusian microbes share any lineage with earthican ones. Given there is some potential of microbes getting cross deposited in our solar system, I would be unshocked if they shared DNA characteristics with us... but painfully disappointed if they did.
    Doubt that anything would likely migrate INWARD against solar wind pressure and space weather systems that move outward. Ya never know, tho.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Doubt that anything would likely migrate INWARD against solar wind pressure and space weather systems that move outward. Ya never know, tho.
    Or
    That reduces the odds, sure, but if we're talking ejecta from asteroidal impacts kicking out into elliptical solar orbits there's still solid opportunity for that. After all, we have martian meteorites on earth.

    My major attitude lately though is to avoid manned missions to anywhere that can hold even vaguely earthlike life because it's impossible to keep a human mission from contaminating an area and losing us irreplaceable data on alternative forms of life, until we are certain they're isn't any. Robots only til sure.

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