Photo credit: ESO (European Space Organization)/M. Kornmesser & NASA/JPL/Caltech
Researchers announced today that they have detected life in the very acidic clouds of Venus, or to be more specific, a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit our slightly smaller neighbor. They did not find actual life forms, but rather the possibility of them, since Earth phosphine is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments. Read more for a video and additional information.
Phosphine was viewed at 20 parts-per-billion in the Venusian atmosphere, and currently, research is ongoing to either confirm the presence of life or find an alternative explanation. This planet has a thick atmosphere that traps heat, causing rurface temperatures reach 880°Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead, zinc as well as other low melting point aluminum alloys.
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With what we currently know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life. I should emphasize that life, as an explanation for our discovery, should be, as always, the last resort. 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,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology molecular astrophysicist and study co-author Clara Sousa-Silva.