There are signs of life on Venus. About 30 to 40 miles above the surface, the planet’s clouds have indications of life, according to scientists on Monday.
Venus is the closest planet to Earth and the second planet from the sun. Both planets have a similar structure but Venus is slightly smaller than Earth.
For many years, scientists believed that Venus could not support life. It is covered by a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps-in heat and creates a scorching uninhabitable surface. Temperatures have been measured at 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius). That’s hot enough to melt metal.
A team of researchers discovers phosphine gas on Venus
An international team of 19 scientists published their study, “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus” in the Nature Astronomy journal.
The scientific team first spotted the phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They confirmed their findings using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile. These telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope allows scientists to discern minute details.
Astronomer Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales was the lead author of the published research. “I was very surprised – stunned, in fact,” she said.
The study was co-authored by Clara Sousa-Silva. She is a molecular astrophysicist based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“With what we currently know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life,” Sousa-Silva said.
“This is important because if it is phosphine, and if it is life, it means that we are not alone. It also means that life itself must be very common, and there must be many other inhabited planets throughout our galaxy,” the astrophysicist added.
The researchers spotted phosphine gas in the clouds. It is above the deadly surface, within the Venusian clouds where temperatures average a moderate 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).
Tiny quantities of phosphine gas are also present in the Earth’s atmosphere. Phosphine is produced by microbes, as well as, human technological processes.
The scientists were surprised by their discovery on Venus since only biological mechanisms create this gas. It is most likely being produced by some form of alien microbe.
The microbes on the planet must endure extreme acidity since the clouds are around 90% sulphuric acid. It would be impossible for Earth microbes to survive those levels of acidity.
Phosphine has a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. It was found in trace concentrations of 20 parts-per-billion. That is highly toxic to people.
The discovery of phosphine is a definite sign of life forms that are radically different than those on Earth. In our planet, phosphine is produced by bacteria that thrive in oxygen-starved environments.
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