A team from the University of Cambridge, using models in the field of biochemistry and atmospheric chemistry, has shown that the theory of life in the atmosphere of Venus several decades ago is incorrect. As the researchers argue, any life form would leave a chemical trail in the atmosphere due to some form of nutrition and metabolism. However, they did not find such traces.

Dr. said. Paul Reimer, one of the authors of the publication that appeared in the pages of the journal Nature Communications.

“We looked at ‘foods’ that contain sulfur that are available in the atmosphere of Venus. This is not something I or anyone else would like to eat, but it is mostly a locally available energy source. Substances that will increase or decrease in the atmosphere,” explains Shawn Jordan , lead author of the paper.

Scientists have examined the interactions of living organisms with sulfur dioxide. The thing is that on Venus you can find large amounts of it in the lower clouds, but for some reason it is much less at higher altitudes. “If life exists on this planet, it must be affecting the chemistry of the atmosphere. Could it be the reason for the decline of life?” asks study co-author Dr. Oliver Shorttel.

The results of the analyzes show that there are no organisms associated with the unusual behavior of life sulfur in the atmosphere of Venus. Dr. said. Jordan. “However, if life is not responsible for what we see on Venus, we still have a problem to solve. There are many unusual reactions that are happening on this planet that need to be studied,” he added.

The method developed by the Cambridge team could help investigate similar mysteries that not only Venus has hidden. It may be very useful in the search for traces of life on exoplanets observed by the currently launched James Webb Space Telescope. This instrument can be able to detect various substances in the atmosphere of distant Earths, including sulfur compounds.

“To understand why some planets survive, we need to know why others die. If life somehow managed to hide in the clouds of Venus, it would completely change the search for chemical effects of life on other planets,” notes Dr. Shorttel. Even if our own Venus died, it is possible that similar planets in other systems could contain life. What we learned from this study can be used to analyze exoplanets, Dr. Rimmer adds.

More information at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-30804-8

Marek Matakz