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Proceedings Paper

Can Venus shed microorganisms?
Author(s): Gregory Konesky
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Paper Abstract

The pale featureless cloud tops of Venus reveal a rich complexity when viewed in ultraviolet. These features result from an unknown absorber brought up from lower atmospheric levels by convection, particularly at lower latitudes. While the surface of Venus is extremely hostile to life as we know it, there exists a habitable region in the atmosphere, centered at approximately 50 km, where the temperature ranges from 30 to 80ºC and the pressure is one bar. Numerous examples of cloud-borne life exist on Earth. However, the environment in the Venus atmospheric habitable zone has only a few ppm of water which is present as misty droplets, strong sulfuric acid, and intense UV illumination. The proposal that putative cloud-borne life forms in Venus' atmospheric habitable zone can be transported to Earth by a solar conveyance face several challenges. Vigorous convective mixing, especially at the lower latitudes is considered as a means of transport to the upper reaches of Venus' atmosphere. Potential propulsive forces imparted by both solar wind and sunlight pressure are considered as a means of achieving escape velocity from Venus. Additional hurdles include direct exposure by such transported life forms to the rigors of the space environment. These are contrasted to those experienced by microorganisms that may be carried within meteorites and comets. A middle ground is perhaps demonstrated by plankton that has been observed at high altitudes on Earth, likely lofted there by a hurricane, which is encased in protective ice crystals.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 September 2009
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 7441, Instruments and Methods for Astrobiology and Planetary Missions XII, 74410H (3 September 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.828643
Show Author Affiliations
Gregory Konesky, K-Plasma Ltd. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7441:
Instruments and Methods for Astrobiology and Planetary Missions XII
Kurt D. Retherford; Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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