Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds

Features in the Venus's thick cloud cover visible in greater detail. The clouds seen here are located about 40 miles (60 kilometers) above the planet's surface, at altitudes where Earth-like atmospheric pressures and temperatures exist. They are comprised of sulfuric acid particles, as opposed to water droplets or ice crystals, as on Earth. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The existence of life floating in the clouds of Venus, the second planet in the solar system, is an unusual possibility, BBC reports.

However, after discovering existence of a gas in the clouds of Venus, astronomers have begun to think about that possibility.

This gas is called phosphine – each molecule of gas is made up of a combination of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms.

Phosphine is a gas associated with life on Earth. Some bacteria on earth naturally combine hydrogen with phosphorus to make this gas.

Animals such as penguins live in the vicinity of germs in their intestines. Or, it is found in wetlands that are low in oxygen. It can be made in industry.

But there is no factory on Venus. There are no penguins.

So how did this phosphine gas get into the clouds 50 kilometers above the surface of Venus?

Professor Jane Greaves, from Cardiff University, UK and colleagues are now trying to find that answer.

They have published a paper containing their observations of phosphine at Venus in the journal Nature Astronomy. There they tried to show that this gas might be a natural, inorganic source of life or life.

What is known about the atmosphere of Venus so far is that there is no biological explanation for the presence of phosphine. But the amount of gas that has been detected there must be considered a living source.

Professor Greaves said that he has been searching for life elsewhere in the Universe through his whole career. So, he was just blown away that this is even possible, he added.

He added: “But, yes, we are genuinely encouraging other people to tell us what we might have missed. Our paper and data are open access; this is how science works.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here