Published: Tue, September 15, 2020
Science | By

Astronomers Announce Possible Sign of Life on Venus

Astronomers Announce Possible Sign of Life on Venus

Watch our summary of the discovery.

That is where phosphine is said to have been found. Venus's clouds are so acidic that they could destroy phosphine quickly, meaning that there has to be something actively forming it, as the amount of the gas found cannot be explained any other way.

The researchers did not discover actual life forms, but noted that on Earth phosphine is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high, temperate clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes...

The presence of phosphine remains "unexplained after exhaustive study", with "no now known abiotic production routes" in Venus's atmosphere, clouds, surface, or subsurface, according to the researchers, led by Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University.

Stargazers will be able to spot our seventh planet this week without the use of a telescope, as long as they know where to look! It costs them energy to do this, so why they do it is not clear. The clouds, however, have been considered a potential haven for aerial microbes to survive. "On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about five percent of acid in their environment - but the clouds of Venus are nearly entirely made of acid".

Imperial's Dr Clements said: "It would be great if this phosphine detection means we have detected life, but at the moment it's not a smoking gun - it's just the hint of an indication of a possibility".

In addition to being on Earth, phosphine has been found in the atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, but Stone pointed out that the chemistry of gas planets and rocky planets, like Earth and Venus, are different enough to make Monday's announcement significant.

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