One of the fascinating aspects about the universe is that traces of life could potentially be found almost everywhere. While Earth-like planets are seen as ideal for the development of life, discoveries on our planet suggest basic forms of life could be found in the most unlikely places.
While Mars and moons like Europa are key candidates for the search of life, even Venus can't be ruled out. Of course, nobody is suggesting there could be life on the surface of this hot planet. With average temperatures 462°C, the surface of Venus is too inhospitable but the planet's atmosphere could be a different story.
A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the journal Astrobiology suggests the clouds above Venus could have everything that's necessary to sustain microbial life. At an altitude of about 48km, the pressure is similar to sea level on Earth, and the temperature is a tolerable 60°C. Basically, it's an environment where certain of Earth's extremophiles could thrive:
The study makes a case that Venus’ atmosphere has everything microorganisms would need to survive, and they would be protected from the worst of the planet’s conditions. The temperature and pressure need to be compatible with life to have any hope of finding microorganisms high up in Venus’ choking atmosphere. According to the researchers, once you get to an altitude of 30 miles, the pressure drops to around 15 pounds per square inch—similar to sea level on Earth. The temperature is a toasty but tolerable 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).
The composition of the Venusian atmosphere isn’t as much of a problem as you might expect. On Earth, a class of organisms known as extremophiles can thrive in volcanic vents, inside rocks, and even in pools of acid. It’s possible a hearty organism could feed on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and float around unbothered by the clouds of acid. In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Life, uh, finds a way.”