Startling findings in the hellish, heavily acidic Venus’ atmosphere offer a possibility of life. The news leaked from the British Royal Astronomical Society.
Nature Astronomy published in its report that 20 parts-per-million of phosphine was detected in Venus’s temperate clouds, and the source requires further research.
Phosphine is a basic chemical compound consisting of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms. Small amounts of phosphine naturally occur from the breakdown of organic matter and is frequently a sign of life.
MIT Astrobiologist, Janusz Petkowski, explained how they studied Venus and researched the source of phosphine found in the clouds. The team has been figuring out the reason for phosphine’s existence and has looked into all kinds of processes, whether chemical or physical.
According to Petkowski, the team concluded that no known chemical and physical processes could conceivably produce the chemical compound.
He said that such staggering discovery adds to the mystery of Venus and opens a bold possibility that something might be living in its atmosphere. Further, phosphine is unexpected on a rocky planet like Venus.
Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the UK, confirmed that the team had detected phosphine, a rare gas, in Venus’s atmosphere. Greaves, who is also a Nature Astronomy’s report lead author, said that on Earth, microorganisms living in oxygen-free environments produce phosphine gas. Thus, there might be a chance of a living organism in the Venus clouds.
However, the researchers do not expressly claim that life has been detected since the findings still need additional study. Nonetheless, observations indicate a possibility of a microbial activity way above the planet’s surface.
MIT researchers and scientists William Bains and Sara Seager clarified that the team does not claim to have found life on Venus. Bains said that the team is cautious in saying they are “not claiming there’s life,” but instead, claim there is something “unknown and might be life.”
Outer space missions have long considered Mars as the best planet beyond Earth to have hosted microbial life, as indicated by the presence of methane. Various outer space programs have been conducted to study the red planet.
Yet, Venus has a temperature as high as 900 degrees at the surface due to thick clouds trapping the sunlight in the atmosphere. However, upper atmosphere temperatures are more bearable and hospitable.
Seager said there can always be something that the team overlooked. Ultimately, to answer the speculation would be to actually go to the planet for a detailed observation of whether or not life is present.