Over the past three years, astronomers have been actively studying the atmosphere of Venus in search of a phosphine molecule that could indicate the presence of life. In 2020, the first results were announced, but their confirmation was doubtful. Today, however, a team of astronomers led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University has presented new data confirming the presence of phosphine not only in the upper atmosphere, but also in the clouds of Venus.
Jane Greaves and her colleagues conducted the study using the James Clark Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. The data obtained are exhaustive and indicate the presence of phosphine both high in the atmosphere of Venus and below the clouds. This indicates that phosphine can come either from the clouds or from beneath them.
Professor Greaves notes that the presence of phosphine in the clouds of Venus points to the possibility of life on the planet. She says, “And that’s really interesting, because the clouds are an interesting part … There could be some living organisms there.”
It’s worth noting, however, that at this point there is no direct evidence for the existence of life on Venus. But the astronomy team believes that some data support this unlikely scenario. For example, the amount of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere remains stable despite various observations. This is in contrast to the sulfur dioxide associated with volcanism on the planet, which can vary widely.
Jane Greaves and her team will continue to study phosphine on Venus and look forward to upcoming missions to the planet. NASA is planning several missions to Venus, and the European Space Agency is also preparing to send a probe to study the planet’s atmosphere. Of particular interest is the Breakthrough Initiatives mission, which aims to study the clouds of Venus and search for phosphine and the possibility of life.
Thus, the presence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus continues to generate interest and excitement among astronomers. The possibility of finding life on this planet opens new horizons and raises questions about what form of life might exist in such extreme conditions.