Traces of a rare molecule known as phosphine have been found in the hellish, heavily acidic atmosphere of Venus, astronomers announced Monday — providing a tantalizing clue about the possibility of life. Phosphine molecules found on Earth are primarily a result of human industry or the actions of microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.
The researchers are not claiming life has been detected on the second planet from the sun. But the observations suggest at least the possibility of microbial activity in the upper layers of Venus’ atmosphere, well away from the planet’s inhospitable surface.
“We have detected a rare gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of our neighbor planet Venus,” said Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and lead author of a report published in Nature Astronomy.
“And the reason for our excitement is that phosphine gas on Earth is made by microorganisms that live in oxygen-free environments. And so there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus.”
Even so, the team said, much more study is needed to support any such claim, extraordinary as it would be.
( As reported by CBS News not edited by our News Desk)