Maybe ... but also, maybe not.
Scientists have detected phosphine gas in Venus’s atmosphere. On Earth, this gas is associated with living things.
To us, phosphine gas is toxic. But to microbes that live in oxygen-starved areas like swampland, phosphine is a byproduct of life.
Phosphine shouldn’t be in Venus’s atmosphere. It’s hard to make and scientists think it would be quickly broken down.
The fact that there’s so much phosphine means that something is consistently creating it.
Could that something be life? Maybe. But also, maybe not.
Using models, the researchers studied ways that a non-biological process like lightning, geological processes on the surface, or photochemical reactions from sunlight could produce phosphine.
But they couldn’t find anything that would produce the concentrations of phosphine they observed.
For decades, some scientists have theorized that Venus’s atmosphere could be conducive to life.
We often think of Venus in terms of its surface — so hot (nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit) and under so much pressure that any landing spacecraft would be destroyed in minutes.
But Venus’s atmosphere is less pressurized and more temperate. And even though it’s full of sulfuric acid, we know that microbes can thrive in acidic environments on Earth.
Although phosphine is considered a signature of life, it doesn’t mean we’ve proven that life exists in Venus’s atmosphere.
But this new finding is a compelling reason to further investigate our celestial neighbor more closely.
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