An international team of researchers led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University has spotted phosphine, a rare and toxic gas, in the atmosphere of Venus suggesting that it may be home to alien life. They reported their findings in an article published in Nature Astronomy today.
The sheer quantity of phosphine found on Venus cannot be explained through any known process, leading researchers suggest that it is a sign of alien life in our solar system.
On Earth, Phosphine is one of the most foul-smelling gases, with the odour of rotten fish and is found in places such as a pond slime and penguin dung. Phosphine is also created by anaerobic organisms, including bacteria and microbes.
The surface of Venus is hot and acidic and so the conditions on the ground would make any kind of life difficult. But the environment it is upper cloud decks is thought to be more habitable about 35 miles up, the conditions are more temperate and where the gas is thought to be found. These clouds are so acidic that they would destroy any phosphine quickly meaning that something must be actively forming it and the amount of gas found is such that it cannot be easily explained in any other way.
Professor Jane Greaves said “ I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus spectrum, it was a shock!”.