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More Evidence for Past Habitability on Venus

darby dyar venus clouds

 An image of the nightside of Venus, left, taken in 2020 and 2021 by the Wide Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument aboard NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft were compared to an aligned image of topographical maps of Venus created with NASA’s Magellan spacecraft radar in the 1990s to see how temperatures change with altitude.

Credit: NASA/APL/NRL (left), Magellan Team/JPL/USGS (right).


PSI Senior Scientist Darby Dyar discusses in a recent story in the Daily Galaxy that Earth’s neighbor Venus could have been habitable in the past. 

Recent research has revealed that Venus might have looked like Earth for three billion years, with vast oceans that could have been friendly to life. “That’s what sets my imagination on fire,” Dyar said. “If that’s the case, there was plenty of time for evolution to kick into action,” and concluded that Venus may have been the first habitable planet in the Solar System — “a place where life was just as likely to arise as it was on Earth.”

In September of 2020, an international group of researchers reported in the journal Nature Astronomy that there may be a whiff of life in the famously inhospitable planet’s atmosphere in the form of traces of phosphine, a gas that is associated with life where there is no oxygen. On Earth, Dyar said, it’s found “in sewage facilities and in the guts of living animals.”

“The experiment was done meticulously,” Dyar said. “The problem is that we haven’t thought too much about whether phosphine can be created abiotically on Venus, in part because we know so little about the planet and its chemistry.”

March 6, 2022
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