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Potential sign of life in Venus atmosphere discovered by astronomers

Venus (Pablo Carlos Budassi/WikiCommons)

Astronomers may have come across an out-of-this-world discovery.

A potential sign of life has been found in Venus’ atmosphere, as the presence of phosphine gas was detected there, according to a study published Monday in the Nature Astronomy journal.

“The presence of (phosphine) is unexplained after exhaustive study of steady-state chemistry and photochemical pathways, with no currently known abiotic production routes in Venus’s atmosphere, clouds, surface and subsurface, or from lightning, volcanic or meteoritic delivery,” reads an excerpt from the paper.

The study says phosphine “could originate from unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or, by analogy with biological production of (phosphine) on Earth, from the presence of life.”

The observations of Venus that are cited in the study began in June 2017, with Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and her team using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.

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Venus, which is the second planet from the sun, has not often been considered to be among the likeliest places where lifeforms could exist due to the scorching hot temperatures on the planet’s surface and the overwhelming presence of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, according to the BBC.

As researchers work to determine exactly what the findings in the newly released study mean, Greaves encourages others to check her team’s work.

“Through my whole career I have been interested in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe, so I’m just blown away that this is even possible,” Greaves said, according to the BBC.

“But, yes, we are genuinely encouraging other people to tell us what we might have missed,” she said. “Our paper and data are open access; this is how science works.”

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