Scientists discovered a gas called phosphine in Venus’ harsh acid clouds, indicating that microbes may be inhabiting Earth’s hospitable neighborhoods, a sign of possible extraterrestrial life.
The researchers did not find real-life forms but noted that phosphine on Earth is produced by bacteria that grow in the oxygen-starved environment. An international scientific team first detected phosphine using the James Clark Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and confirmed it using the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (Alma) radio telescope in Chile.
Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales, the lead author of the research, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, said “I was shocked.”
The existence of extraterrestrial life is one of the main questions of science. Scientists have used probes and telescopes to search for “signatures of life” – indirect signs of life – on other planets and moons in our solar system and beyond.
“As far as we know about Venus, the most reliable interpretation of phosphine is as wonderful as it sounds,” said Clara Sousa-Silva, co-author of Molecular Astronomy and Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“As an explanation for our discovery, I must emphasize that life should be the last place as always,” Clara Sousa-Silva added. “This is important because if it were phosphine if it were life, it would mean that we are not alone.
Phosphine – a phosphorus atom composed of three hydrogen atoms – is highly toxic to humans.
Earth-based telescopes, such as those used in this research, help scientists study chemistry and other properties of astronomical objects.
Phosphine was found to be 20 parts per billion in the atmosphere of Venus, which is a trace concentration. The researchers studied non-biological sources such as volcanoes, meteorites, lightning, and various chemical reactions, but nothing was possible, Greaves said. Research confirms the existence of life or finds an alternative interpretation.
Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet to come from the Sun. Earth is the third. Venus is covered in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps heat. The surface temperature reaches 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), which is hot enough to melt lead.
“I can only speculate that life could exist on Venus if it really is. No life can survive on the surface of Venus because it is not entirely hospitable, even biochemicals are completely different from ours,” said Sousa-Silva. But a long time ago, Venus It may have life on its surface before the runaway greenhouse effect makes most of the planet completely uninhabitable. “
Some scientists suspect that the high clouds of Venus, with mild temperatures around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), may contain aerial microbes that can withstand extreme acidity. These clouds are 90% sulfuric acid. Earth microbes are unable to retain that acidity.
“If it were microbes, they would have access to some sunlight and water and may live in liquid droplets to prevent dehydration themselves, but they would need some unknown mechanism to prevent corrosion by acid,” Greaves said
On Earth, microorganisms in the “anaerobic” environment – ecosystems that do not believe in oxygen – produce phosphine. These include sewage plants, swamps, paddy fields, swamps, lake sediments, and many animal excreta and intestinal tract. Non-biological phosphine also arises in some industrial systems.
To make phosphine, earth bacteria take phosphate from minerals or biological materials and add hydrogen.
“We have done everything we can to explain this discovery without the need for a biological process. With our current knowledge of phosphine, and Venus and geochemistry, we cannot explain the existence of phosphine in the clouds of Venus. It does not mean life. This means that some attractive process produces phosphine, and more Our understanding of Venus requires work, ”said Sousa-Silva.
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