The worldwide team of astronomers led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University have announced the discovery of phosphine gas in these high clouds, a molecule which is produced on Earth by microbes that live in similar oxygen-free environments.
The team considered processes on Venus, such as volcanoes or sunlight, to explain the presence of phosphine...
This research was led by an worldwide team leading by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University.
The phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus atoms, says Sky News, was initially detected using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. The discovery was then confirmed using a more sensitive radio telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.
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Artist's impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks.
Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius, they are incredibly acidic - around 90 per cent sulphuric acid - posing major issues for any microbes trying to survive there.
While the temperatures on Venus are presumed to be far too hot to sustain life, the conditions in the atmosphere are a little more habitable.
"About 10 years ago NASA discovered microbial life at 120,000 ft in Earth's upper atmosphere".
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The new findings are cited as a tantalising sign of potential life beyond Earth, and sparked a lot of reactions on social media. "The research continues to either confirm the presence of life or find an alternative explanation".
The existence of any kind of life and survival of life is very hard due to the acidic and hot surface of Venus.
"There are substantial conceptual problems for the idea of life in Venus's clouds - the environment is extremely dehydrating as well as hyperacidic", Greaves and her colleagues said. The discovery raises many questions, such as how any organisms could survive.
Phosphine is one of the most foul-smelling gases known to man, with the odour of rotting fish, it is often found in penguin dung and pond slime. "I mean, Venus is a place we do not associate with extraterrestrial life..." The observations were made on 6 May 2016, when the spacecraft saw the whole planet illuminated.
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