Photographs show life on Venus, says Russian scientist

Jan 24, 2012
Tim Edwards

Remarkable claim forces Nasa to deny existence of extraterrestrial life for second time this month

A RESPECTED Russian scientist has claimed that photographs from a space probe that landed on the surface of Venus in 1982 show evidence of several life forms. The claim forced Nasa to debunk supposed evidence of alien life for the second time in a month.

In an article due to be published in the magazine Solar System Research, Leonid Ksanfomaliti of Russia's Academy of Sciences says the photographs indicate a number of moving objects resembling a disk, a 'black flap' and a scorpion. The article, picked up by RIA Novosti, suggests that between successive photographs, the objects "emerge, fluctuate and disappear", suggesting they are moving.

If true, Ksanfomaliti's findings suggest a veritable ecosystem on the solar system's second planet - and fly in the face of the weight of scientific evidence, much of it gathered by Russian probes from the Venera programme.

The photographs Ksanfomaliti refers to are from Venera-13, which alighted on Venus in 1982. The probe managed to examine a soil sample and take a series of photographs before expiring just two hours after landing thanks to the planet's hellish conditions which include a surface temperature of 460C and an atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth.

But Ksanfomaliti says: "What if we forget about the current theories about the non-existence of life on Venus, let's boldly suggest that the objects' morphological features would allow us to say that they are living."

Ksanfomaliti's discovery, although it has made headlines around the world, has been met with extreme scepticism.

Jonathon Hill of the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, who processes images from Nasa's missions to Mars, told Life's Little Mysteries the scorpion-like object is actually a mechanical component designed to fall off after landing. The same object is seen on pictures taken by another probe, Venera-14, which landed nearly 1,000km away from Venera-13.

Meanwhile, Ted Stryk, another Nasa photographic expert, says the disc-shaped objects are lens caps, which were also designed to fall off the probe's cameras after landing. The reason they appear in different locations in different pictures is not because they are alive and moving around, but because "Venera-13 had two cameras, one in front and one in back. The one image shows the front camera lens cap and the other shows the rear camera lens cap, not one lens cap that moved."

This is far from the first time artefacts in low-resolution images have been mistaken for signs of extraterrestrial life. Earlier this month, Nasa was moved to debunk a theory that a planet-sized UFO had been detected by one of its probes.

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