Why have we historically looked for life only on mars when venus is also one of our closest neighbors. In fact it was venus that saw the firstlanding of a planetary space probe in 1970. After that scientists lost interest in our sister planet instead dozens of probes were sent to mars. Last year scientists found evidence of biological life in venus’s atmosphere. All eyes are now on Venus of course and excitement is building.
Although most of us know much more about Mars, Venus is our Earth’s closest neighborand actually more similar. The planet is named after the Roman goddess of beauty and love. Sometimes Venus is referred to as the Earth’s evil sister, this is because the living conditions onthe surface of Venus are anything but inviting. Temperatures averaging 750 degrees fahrenheit and a 90 percent higher atmospheric pressure.Do not exactly make exploring our sister planet easy. Actually it’s a miracle that technical devices have been able to land on venus and return data at all. But you’ll learn more about that in a moment. Before that we have a few tantalizing facts about venus for you.
1) Venus is almost as big as the earth it’s only five percent smaller and has about 19% less mass.
2) Venus’s atmosphere consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide.
3) It is the only planet in our solar system besides our earth that is considered female and bears the name of a female deity. 4) Besides the moon, venus is the brightest celestial body visible from earth. Because of its good visibility in the morning and the evening venus is also known as the morning star or evening star.
In many ancient cultures the celestial body was sacred venus was always associated with beauty, luminosity and femininity. Researchers assumed that venus was once a water-covered planet with truly lovely living conditions. But those days are long gone.
The russians have always had a special interest in venus
Quite unlike for us and Mars, the Russians have been the pioneers of venus exploration.Since the 1960s both planets have been visited by 38 mars probes and 35 venus probes. However the mars missions have been able to provide much more data. The surface of mars is hostile so rovers are deployed to explore the surface. On the surface of venus all technical equipment burns up within a very short time. The first space probe ever sent by humans to a planet was the venero 1 probe of the russians. It was launched in february 1961 but missed its target. The venera probes to come also did not enjoy much success in addition a nasa venus mission also failed.
The first to make a soft landing on the surface of venus was the venera 7 probe in december 1970. It sent photos and data back to earth for a full 23 minutes, just two years later russian space flight was again successful venera 8 however delivered only 11 seconds of analyzable data. After venus turned out to be a completely inhospitable planet the americans in particular together with nasa turned their attention to mars and other planets in the solar system. Soon however probes are to be sent to venus again in addition to the Russians and NASA, India, Japan and the Europeans have their own venus projects in the pipeline. The reason for this interest is newly gained knowledge about possible life in venus’s atmosphere. Another aspect that is generating interest is the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse effect like on earth?
Dramatic climate changes could be another parallel between the sister worlds earth and venus. Both planets are currently experiencing a greenhouse effect however the greenhouse effect on venus is already much more advanced than on our planet. The data from venus can therefore provide exciting insights into what happens to a rocky planet in the course of unstoppable warming.
Is there life on venus?
Of course speculations about whether there is has been or could one day be life on Venus keep surfacing. With Mars, these considerations are already much more advanced, soon the first manned flights are to explore the surface of Mars. Settlements are planned and in the long term even a development of Mars as an alternative dwelling place for mankind. Researchers at NASA’s godard institute for space studies have found an exciting thing in simulations. Until about 700 million years ago Venus may have been a planet covered by oceans. The temperatures were mild and pleasant due to a different composition of the atmosphere in other words the best conditions for life.
According to biologists, it takes several million years for complex life forms toarise. The habitable period of Venus extendedover a period of two to three billion years time enough then for life to emerge and to flourish.After heating and massive changes to the surfacenothing of this life would be visible today. Even if humanoid cultures had existed there their structures would probably be several meters below the surface. There is strong volcanism on venus researchers have also calculated a verysimilar scenario for Mars, it too was probably once covered by water and theoretically habitable.
Evidence for microbes on venus
In 2020, the news rolled in as a team of international scientists analyzed data from the Alma radio telescope. The data was obtained in Venus’s atmosphere gases and chemicals produce specific and recognizable frequencies. Thus based on the typical wave pattern the researchers indicated the presence of a substance called phosphine in the atmosphere of venus. Phosphine is a chemical you’ve probably never heard of that’s not a bad thing either because it’s basically insignificant to our lives. We earthlings prefer to use phosphine as rat poison.
So what exactly is phosphine?
Phosphine molecules consist of one atom of phosphorus and three atoms of hydrogen.Chemically correct it is called ‘monophosphane’and belongs to the chemical group of phosphates. Phosphine is a flammable odorless gas and extremely toxic. Now you’re probably asking yourself why such a gas might be a sign of life. In fact phosphine can be found in nature specifically where biomass decomposes.
It is found among other things in the feces of penguins, in laboratory experiments it was discovered that phosphine can be a decomposition product of certain microbes. If it occurs in the atmosphere of venus this is therefore an indication of the possible presence of biological processes. Microbes are among the smallest units of biological life. All kinds of other organisms can develop from them in long evolutionary processes. The first living organisms on earth were microbes.
All just a measurement error?
Of course scientists around the world immediately set out to test the microbe theoryunfortunately two studies quickly came to a different conclusion. First, it turned out that the alma telescope had been incorrectly calibrated, the calculated phosphene concentration had beenerroneously overestimated by a factor of seven.Another study found no evidence at all for the presence of phosphine in the corrected readings.New evaluations of measured data are currently still ongoing. Proponents of the theory are quite happy to point to another measurement that would fit the existence of microbes. In 1978 NASA’s pioneer Venus 2 spacecraft found bacteria-like particles in the atmosphere of Venus
Phosphene also exists on Saturn and Jupiter
In fact monophosphane was also detected in the atmospheres of jupiter and saturn in the 1970s. There it is formed by a completely different pathway. Jupiter and Saturn are gas giants, phosphine is produced in a chemical physical way inside the soft planets under the action of great pressure. This type of formation can be ruled out for Venus it lacks the energy to produce phosphine in a physical way. In addition there is another circumstance biologically produced phosphine appears preferentially. Where small amounts of phosphorus meet acidic environments and this is exactly what happens in the clouds of Venus.
So the chance of discovering life on Venus is far from impossible. Only new probes and on-site measurements will provide clear insights. However, we’ll have to be patient for this. The Solar orbiter and the Jupiter probe JUICE will only make brief flying visits to the earth’s evil sister.
NASA is considering an early Venus mission based on the latest data however more details have not been revealed. At the European Space Agency (esa) the earliest venus exploration would be in 2025. That leaves space newcomer India and the Russians. The venera d probe is scheduled to embark on its journey in 2025. When exactly the Indian Venus project will start is still unknown. So we can remain curious and look forward to news from venus. Unfortunately we could not announce actual evidence of extraterrestrial lifeat this time.