Turns Out, Maybe We Do Have Extra-Planetary Neighbors

Turns+Out%2C+Maybe+We+Do+Have+Extra-Planetary+Neighbors

Kian Pfannenstiel, Editor

Recently, scientists have discovered a few signs from our neighbor Venus that suggest it may have biological life on it. But let’s back up first. When did we rule out Venus as a possibility for life and why? Where else have we been looking? Is this the first sign of life there? What does this mean for life here on Earth? Most importantly, what does it mean for science fiction?

Whoa, slow down with the questions I just put in your mouth. One at a time, lad.

First and foremost, Venus was ruled out of the list of possible locales of habitation in and around the ’60s. According to NASA’s Mariner 2, Venus hangs around 900°F. On top of that, it’s covered in clouds of toxic gasses, like sulfuric gas, with an atmospheric pressure of about 100 times that on Earth. It seems reasonable, at this point, to eliminate this planet as a source of life.

More recently, we’ve been looking towards Mars, naturally, for life, along with Europa and Enceladus, according to the New York Times. We believe it’s more likely that if we’ll have any kind of contact with life, it will probably be with life on these celestial bodies.

This is not the first sign of life on Venus, but it is the first to strongly suggest that there may be life there. Speaking of which, now may be a good time to tell you what exactly these signs are. Within the last few months, if not more recently, some astronomers discovered a gas present in Venus’ atmosphere called phosphine, reported two pdfs, one linked here and the other can be downloaded here. The thing about phosphine is that the only way we know how to make it is biologically. There are certain microbes that produce the gas, but there seems to be no other way to produce it, which leads us to believe that these microbes may exist on Venus. There have been other signs of life on Venus, but none as significant as that. Things like the presence of strange UV light absorption are all we’ve had to suggest inward neighbors until now.

Really, until we get people to Venus, this doesn’t mean much for life on Earth. If it’s there, it’s been there. Life remaining there won’t change life here. Yet.

Which, of course, is where sci-fi comes in. When science fiction gets its hands on this information, it’ll probably just be a disease series. How original and insightful. Another alien disease. Yay. Sorry, sci-fi nerds, this is just going to be a letdown for you.

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_964.html

https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/venusfact.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1174-4

https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/2009/2009.06499.pdf

For a more condensed read:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/science/venus-life-clouds.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Venus