Show an ad over header. AMP

What it would mean to find life on Venus

Scientists think they may have found an indicator of life in Venus’ clouds — a discovery that, if confirmed, will cause them to re-examine everything they thought they knew about how life evolves.

The big picture: If life does exist within a small niche of habitability in Venus' temperate layer of clouds, it might mean that life could be even more ubiquitous in the universe than previously expected. The discovery is already fueling calls from scientists who want a mission sent to the nearby world.

  • "If we have Venus also creating life, amidst some completely different scenarios from what we have on Earth, it would be really quite silly to think there's some unique thing about our solar system," Clara Sousa-Silva, an author of the new Venus study and researcher at MIT, told Axios.

Catch up quick: On Monday, scientists announced the discovery of phosphine — a possible sign of life — in the clouds of Venus' upper atmosphere.

  • The gas isn't a sure-fire sign that microbes are floating around in the planet's clouds, but the researchers behind the study haven't yet been able to find another explanation for why the phosphine exists.
  • Future observations will focus on confirming the phosphine detection and scientists are advocating for a Venus probe that might be able to sniff out the gas — and possibly life — in the planet's atmosphere.

The big question: What kind of life could exist within Venus' clouds?

  • Scientists think Venus once was somewhat like Earth, long-lived bodies of water on its surface. But hundreds of millions of years ago, a runaway greenhouse effect took over, leaving the planet shrouded in dense clouds and host to an inhospitable surface.
  • On Venus, microbes or even other creatures living in the clouds could be the last holdouts after a violent reordering of their world's climate — or it could be life that evolved independently in the clouds.
"If there had been life there when it was habitable, maybe that life managed to adapt. Or maybe only the few life forms that could make it into the clouds, they watched a worldwide massacre of every other lifeform they knew, and this is them hanging on to the very end, and we're witnessing this kind of final chapter of life on Venus."
Clara Sousa-Silva

Yes, but: Even if life is confirmed on Venus, it will still take time and a lot of analysis to figure out its origins.

  • Scientists have long wondered if life could have been seeded throughout the solar system either though meteorites or some other mechanism that spreads material around the solar system.
  • If life came to be on Venus entirely independently of life on Earth, however, that would tell researchers something important about how exactly life evolves, potentially providing answers to a number of questions about the nearby planet's history and evolution.
  • "That's why this has the potential to open a lot of doors that we haven't really appreciated before," planetary geologist Paul Byrne, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Axios.

The stock market is doubting the Fed's ability to deliver on higher inflation

The market looks like it may be throwing another tantrum, investors say. But the cause is different this time around.

What's happening: This selloff is beginning to look like the 2013 taper tantrum, which roiled markets as U.S. government yields rose in response to an expected reduction of the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) program.

Keep reading... Show less

Only Joe Biden can win the election in a popular and electoral vote landslide

Joe Biden or President Trump could win the election narrowly — but only one in a popular and electoral vote blowout. 

Why it matters: A Biden blowout would mean a Democratic Senate, a bigger Democratic House and a huge political and policy shift nationwide.

Keep reading... Show less

Justice's moves ring Big Tech with regulatory threats

The Department of Justice proposed legislation to curb liability protections for tech platforms and moved a step closer toward an antitrust lawsuit against Google Wednesday.

The big picture: As President Trump faces re-election, lawmakers and regulators are hurriedly wrapping up investigations and circling Big Tech with regulatory threats.

Keep reading... Show less

Democrats' mail voting pivot

Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee. But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well.

Why it matters: Democrats are exponentially more likely to vote by mail than Republicans this year — and if enough mail-in ballots are lost, rejected on a technicality or undercounted, it could change the outcome of the presidential election or other key races.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden's mail voting danger

Data: SurveyMonkey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Voters who disapprove of President Trump most strongly are by far the most likely to vote by mail in the presidential election, according to an Axios analysis of exclusive data from SurveyMonkey and Tableau.

Why it matters: The new data shows just how strongly the mail-in vote is likely to favor Joe Biden — with potentially enormous implications in the swing states due to the greater risk of rejection with mail ballots.

Keep reading... Show less

Reopening the ACA debate is politically risky for GOP

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation, The Cook Political Report; Notes: Those losing insurance includes 2020 ACA marketplace enrollment and 2019 Medicaid expansion enrollment among newly-eligible enrollees. Close races are those defined as "Toss up" or "Lean R/D"; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The sudden uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act could be an enormous political liability for Republicans in key states come November.

Between the lines: Millions of people in crucial presidential and Senate battlegrounds would lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, as the Trump administration is urging it to.

Keep reading... Show less

The coronavirus is surging again

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The coronavirus is surging once again across the U.S., with cases rising in 22 states over the past week.

The big picture: There isn't one big event or sudden occurrence that explains this increase. We simply have never done a very good job containing the virus, despite losing 200,000 lives in just the past six months, and this is what that persistent failure looks like.

Keep reading... Show less

Two officers shot in Louisville amid Breonna Taylor protests

Louisville Metro Police Department said two officers were shot downtown in the Kentucky city late Wednesday, just hours after a grand jury announced an indictment in the Breonna Taylor case.

Driving the news: Metrosafe, the city's emergency services, said it received reports of a shooting at South Brook St. and Broadway Ave., near the area where protests were taking place. A police spokesperson told a press briefing the injuries of both officers were not life-threatening. One officer was "alert and stable" and the other was undergoing surgery, he said.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories