Here’s how the closest place to “hell” in our Solar System might actually be home to life.
From afar, Venus seems like the most uninhabitable planet of all.
Beneath its carbon dioxide/nitrogen atmosphere, 90 times thicker than Earth’s, a hellscape of a surface awaits.
Day or night, Venus’s surface is constantly 880 °F (470 °C): the hottest planet of all.
Although we’ve successfully sent numerous landers, they’ve all failed after mere hours.
The reason? A layer of sulfuric acid clouds enshrouds Venus at high altitudes.
These radiation-reflecting clouds create a runaway greenhouse effect: responsible for Venus’s incredible temperatures.
Above the cloud-tops, however, conditions become far more hospitable.
At 60 kilometers (36 miles) in altitude, temperatures and atmospheric pressures are similar to Earth’s.
The right ingredients for life, including carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen-rich molecules, are all abundant.
Ultraviolet photos of Venus display “dark patches,” which Harold Morowitz and Carl Sagan suggested could indicate microorganisms.
A zeppelin filled with breathable air would “float” at this altitude, making investigative missions feasible.
Above the cloud-tops, Venus has been called a “paradise planet.”
NASA has proposed a mission devoted to human settlements there, HAVOC: the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept.
For life beyond Earth, the heavens of hell-planet Venus might, quite surprisingly, be “just right.”
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.