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On Venus, cloudy with a prospect of microbial life

In recent years, the discovery of extremophiles, bacteria that live in nuclear reactors, hot ocean vents, and other unlikely places, and exoplanets has stimulated new work and ideas about habitable planets. If Mars can have microfossils, why not Venus?

In addition, according to Dr. Grinspoon, new studies on Venus have led to the conclusion that the planet may have lost its oceans recently, just 700 million years ago, which allows a lot of time for life to evolve since the planet was formed and then escaped into the Clouds.

What kind of life would that be? In 2004, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astronomer at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany, and his colleagues suggested coating microbes floating in the clouds with a compound called cyclooctasulfur, which acts as a sunscreen and converts ultraviolet light into visible wavelengths for photosynthesis .

Earlier this year, Dr. Seager and her colleagues expanded this idea and outlined a possible life cycle for such organisms. The microbes could inhabit droplets of sulfuric acid in the clouds, they suggested; As the droplets collided and merged, more and more microbes became associated, metabolized, and divided.

Eventually the droplets would get too heavy and rain down from the clouds, but they would evaporate before hitting the ground, causing the microbes to dry out and dormant.

Dr. Seager noticed that Venus is known to have a layer of haze. “It’s very stable and people don’t know what the particles are there, but they stay in suspension for a very long time,” she said. “So I posited that some of these particles, not all, but some of these particles might actually be parched life – spores.”

These spores would be light enough to return to the clouds on currents called gravitational waves, where they would act as seeds for new droplets to condense and restart the entire cycle.

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