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Finding Life: Bad News for Venus but Good News for Jupiter

Experts are still searching for life on other planets and we may possibly even find it on one of them in our own Solar System. NASA just recently announced that there will be two missions sent to Venus to study our “sister planet”. Unfortunately for our planetary neighbor, a new study has pretty much dashed any hopes of finding life on Venus, but there is optimism for Jupiter.

According to the study, Earth’s most drought-tolerant microbes wouldn’t even be able to survive on Venus. The researchers came to this conclusion by studying data collected by probes that flew through Venus’ atmosphere. This data included temperatures, pressure, and humidity in the planet’s atmosphere – specifically in the clouds that contain sulphuric acid.

In a news conference, John Hallsworth, who is a microbiologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, U.K., explained this further, “When we looked at the effective concentration of water molecules in those clouds, we found that it was a hundred times too low for even the most resilient Earth organisms to survive,” adding that it is an “…unbridgeable distance.”

Venus

For example, microorganisms on Earth can survive in water activity with a value as low as 0.585; however, on Venus, the water activity level in the clouds was just 0.004. Chris McKay, who is a NASA Ames astrobiologist, went into further details about their findings, “Our conclusion is based directly on measurements.” “It’s not a model, it’s not an assumption. The missions that NASA just selected to go to Venus will do the same measurements again — temperature, pressure — and they are going to come to very much the same conclusions because Venus is not changing on that type of time scale.”

This is incredibly disappointing news, especially for the experts who were excited to find phosphine on the planet (this is a compound that is made up of atoms from phosphorus and hydrogen that is important in regards to life.)

Now onto Jupiter, the researchers analyzed data collected by the Galileo probe that flew between 26 and 42 miles (between 42 and 68 kilometers) from the surface of the planet and discovered that the water activity in the Gas Giant’s clouds was at 0.585 which means that there is enough water activity to possibly support life. Furthermore, the temperature is about minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit which is also within the range for life to survive.

Jupiter

McKay talked a bit about this discovery, “Jupiter looks much more optimistic.” “There is at least a layer in the clouds of Jupiter where the water requirements are met. It doesn’t mean that there is life, it just means that with respect to water, it would be OK.” There are, however, other problems for life to survive such as a lack of nutrients and high levels of ultraviolet radiation.

The study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy where it can be read in full.