Life on Venus was thought to be impossible. The Venusian atmosphere swirls with thick carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid and the temperature on the surface can melt lead and steel.
But scientists recently discovered something unexpected: a chemical signal on Venus that hasn’t been seen before. And the gas may signal that alient life has been next door to Earth this whole time.
What Is Phosphine?
Phosphine is a compound containing one atom of phosphorous and three hydrogen atoms. To humans, it is toxic and potentially deadly.
Phosphine Detected in Clouds on Venus
In their paper, Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Deck of Venus, scientists disclosed they had two independent confirmations of phosphine gas being present in the Venusian atmosphere. While the surface of Venus is hot, the upper clouds of Venus are cooler–even cooler enough for humans. However, the gases present on Venus are still extremely corrosive.
Scientists are not aware of how phosphine gas would accumulate in Venuses atmosphere. Scientists leave open the possibility that unknown chemical processes could produce phosphine. But phosphine may indicate a biological process too.
How Does Phosphine Signal Alien Life on Venus
While much aerobic life on Earth relies on oxygen and emits carbon dioxide as a waste product, not all life on Earth does.
For example, deep in the oceans, there are organisms which use hydrogen sulfide instead. Some organisms use hydrogen sulfide in place of oxygen. Recognizable tube worms actually rely on bacteria in their digestive tracks to use the hydrogen sulfide to make food.
Could we be seeing something similar on Venus? Are bacteria or microbes using sulfuric acid or carbon dioxide and producing phosphine gas as a waste product?
While it’s possible that some phosphine gas could occur naturally, the harsh conditions on Venus should destroy it quickly. And Venus contains noticeable amount of the gas. So, scientists suspect that something is replenishing the supply of phosphine gas in the atmopshere.
While Jupiter is known to contain phosphine gas, scientists don’t think that Venus has the same conditions to produce phosphine the way Jupiter does.
The detection phosphine may suggest life on venus. But Scientists cannot be sure without further research.