Science 3 min read

Researchers Discover Possible Sign of Life on Venus

Comfreak / Pixabay.com

Comfreak / Pixabay.com

A recent study suggests that phosphine is present in the atmosphere of Venus — a sign that there could be extraterrestrial lifeforms on the hot planet.

With temperatures exceeding 800 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists have long concluded that Venus‘s surface is not ideal for life.

In fact, researchers have sent several probes to the second planet from the sun in the past but none has survived more than a few hours due to the scourging heat.

Similarly, Venus’s atmosphere consists of plush layers of sulfuric acid clouds. Although the clouds are heavily acidic, scientists always suspected that it presents a unique cradle for growing lifeforms.

As it turns out, the suspicion might not be far-fetched.

On Monday, a team of planetary scientists reported finding a possible sign of life on Venus. No, it’s not the little green people that you imagined. Instead, it’s a rare gas called Phosphine.

In a statement to the press, a professor at Cardiff University and lead author of the report, Jane Greaves, said:

“The reason for our excitement is that phosphine gas on Earth is made by microorganisms that live in oxygen-free environments. So, there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus.”

Note that the discovery doesn’t explicitly confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life on Venus. However, it’s closest we’ve ever come.

Here’s how the researchers made the discovery.

Finding Phosphine, a Possible Sign of Life on Venus

It all started when Greaves read a scientific paper that identified Phosphine as a biosignature for our planet. It could tell alien astronomers that Earth is harboring life, the paper reads.

So, Greaves decided to test the idea out on Venus, which has a similar mass and size as Earth. She used a ground-based telescope in Hawaii to observe the planet for a couple of hours, almost on an impulse.

I wasn’t really expecting that we’d detect anything,” Greaves told the press.

But she did found something. The scientist noted a distinct pattern of light that suggests the presence of Phosphine within the planet’s clouds. Another telescope in Chile confirmed the discovery.

Then, Greaves contacted Clara Sousa-Silva at MIT, who had spent her career studying the molecule.

What you Should Know About the Molecule Phosphine

Phosphine (PH3) is consists of a single phosphorus atom plus a trio of hydrogen that can be manufactured in the lab.

However, anaerobic microbes — that thrive in environments without oxygen — on Earth also produce phosphine. However, scientists are yet to observe exactly how these organisms create the compound.

Phosphine also appears to be present in the core of other planets in the solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn. But, there’s a reasonable explanation for the compound’s presence on those planets.

It turns out that the crushing heat and pressure on Jupiter and Saturn are powerful enough to slam atoms of hydrogen and phosphine together. Meanwhile, the conditions on Venus don’t support such a reaction.

As crazy as it might sound, our most plausible explanation is life,” Clara Sousa-Silva, one of the authors, told The Atlantic.

With that said, some researchers are skeptical of the findings. They suggested that an error might have occurred during the data collection process.

Read More: Australian Telescope Completes Search for Alien Technologies

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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