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Atmospheric beasts are hypothetical non-winged organisms which could live within the atmosphere of planets. These could fly (or float) without wings as they weigh less than air. Carl Sagan proposed, albeit offhandedly, that this kind of creature could live in the atmosphere of a gas giant, such as Jupiter.[1] Illustrations of atmospheric beasts have appeared in books, exhibiting speculation as to the exotic forms extraterrestrial life might take.[2] Descriptions of this sort often portray these beings as living balloons, filled with lighter than air gases. In the context of a Jupiter-like planet with a hydrogen atmosphere, such an organism would have to be a hot hydrogen balloon, since there is no other lighter gas.[1]


In fiction

Atmospheric creatures on Earth have served as the premise of several science-fiction stories since the early twentieth century, though all of these refer to atmospheric beasts on Earth, not the Sagan hypothesis of creatures living in the atmospheres of gas giants.

The first occurrence of such creatures in science fiction was in Will A. Page's 1911 short story "The Air Serpent", which, as the title implies, was about a flying, reptilian-looking creature. Arthur Conan Doyle elaborated upon the idea in 1913 his story "The Horror of the Heights", which portrayed an entire ecosystem of semi-solid beasts living at previously undiscovered heights in the atmosphere, as did Ray Bradbury in The Martian Chronicles.

Spider Robinson's novel Telempath features such animals called "Muskys", which attacked the Earth when large amounts of pollution began to affect the air.

Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series take place in an alternate history in which a number of atmospheric beasts exist.

James Blish's Cities in Flight makes mention of a bioluminescent, jellyfish-like beast which exists as the only life form on the planet Jupiter, making its home strictly within the atmosphere.

The game Star Control II includes a race of balloon-like aliens called the "Slylandro", who are native to a distant gas giant, living only within a certain air density. While intelligent and long lived, they have little technology and no means of travelling beyond their planet, as all material beyond a certain density sinks to levels of their atmosphere they cannot survive in.

In the game City of Heroes, Kheldians are energy beings that can bond with living creatures in a symbiotic relationship, and after generations are able to 'memorize' their 'host pattern' to transform to one of these species at will. One of the species they can transform into is a tentacled, squid-like creature that is said to have lived in the atmosphere of a gas giant.

See also


  1. ^ a b Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. Episode 2. 1980
  2. ^ Dickenson, Terence; Schaller, Adolf (1994). Extraterrestrials: A Field Guide for Earthlings.. Camden House.  

External links

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