The Unexplained: What’s going on with Venus?

This Magellan image mosaic shows one of the largest impact craters known to exist on Venus. The Margaret Mead Crater is 170 miles (2745 kilometers) in diameter. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The clouds of Venus are mystical.  There is nothing quite like them in our solar system. Thus, the mystery deepens.

When we first studied the solar system – for me, it was along about the third or fourth grade – we learned about most of our planets and their order from our star, the Sun.  There are a couple of others we don’t know about yet, no doubt.

Little Mercury is first in line, and it is so close to the giant ball of fire that it is lifeless, unless there is some unknown extremophile that can live continuously in 800+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures and thrive.

Between Earth and Mercury is Venus.  Venus is always covered by thick acid clouds.  We can’t really see what’s going on there because of that.  The only images we have of the surface were taken by the Russian Venera space craft. Venera 9, 10, 13, 14 all got quick images in 1975 and 1982.  After their landings, the spacecraft disintegrated or burned up quickly, due to atmospheric pressure or heat on the surface of Venus.  It is too hot there to support life as we know it.

Sara Marie Hogg

There is most probably no life walking or rolling around on Venus.  It is too extreme for anything but rocks.  There is evidence that Venus has active volcanoes, and the by- products of volcanoes release onto the terrain and also belch into the air.

The clouds of Venus are mystical.  There is nothing quite like them in our solar system.  They are thick and never part – a permanent encasement for the planet.  The mystery deepens.

What are these clouds made of?  Sulfuric acid.The actual atmosphere is carbon dioxide.  Then we get to the phosphine.  This is where it gets interesting.  Phosphine is not easy to generate.  Its occurrence anywhere is rare, indeed.  Phosphine on Earth is a malodorous gas that is a biosignature.  That means it can be a by product of microbes that live in an oxygen-free environment–or it can be made artificially in a lab.

Let’s assume there are not labs on Venus manufacturing phosphine.  The phosphine must be a by-product of some natural process there involving microbes.

Although the surface of Venus is harsh, if you travel upward there is an atmospheric zone that has Earthlike properties as far as pressure and temperature are concerned.  This zone is between 48 and 65 kilometers up.

Billions of years ago, Venus had vast oceans and maybe even some kind of life.  Then, the surface dried up and became too harsh for living things.  At some point did some microbes escape to the upper regions to try to adapt and survive?

In March of 2019, scientists zoomed in on the phosphine using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array Telescopes in Chile.  They found a lot in the clouds of Venus–5-20 parts per billion.

A group of scientists spearheaded this search as they had suspected its presence individually.  Many are convinced microbes are producing the phosphine.  Another group of scientists thinks the phosphine comes from a yet-to-be-discovered source.

As for the inhabitants of our solar system, tiny and large – “we are stardust.”

Please click HERE to find Sara Marie Hogg’s historical mystery, It Rises from the Pee Dee, on Amazon.

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