The discovery of phosphine suggests that Venus may not be as inhospitable to life as previously thought.
With surface temperatures in excess of 860 degrees and crushing atmospheric pressures more than 100 times that observed on our planet, conditions on Venus are undeniably dire.
But while the likelihood of detecting signs of life on its surface remains low, scientists have long assumed that primitive life forms could potentially exist high in the clouds.
This idea has been around for several decades – even Carl Sagan pondered the possibility of life in the atmosphere of Venus back in 1967. A new study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, shows the discovery of phosphine on Venus – something that could indicate the presence of life.
“The discovery suggests that either some exotic chemical process is taking place that we were not aware of, or perhaps some organism survived the greenhouse effect and evolved to live in the clouds,” said Cardiff University’s Jane Greaves.
The discovery was made with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.
“When Jane sent me the spectrum, I was sitting in front of the computer and blinking for about half an hour,” said telescope director Jessica Dempsey. “I didn’t believe she really found him.”