Astronomers have long speculated about possible life on the Earth’s neighbor. Now researchers have discovered a gas that indicates that microbes could inhabit the inhospitable planet.
High up in the atmosphere of Venus, astronomers have discovered the gas monophosphane. The compound of one phosphorus and three hydrogen atoms (PH3) is produced on Earth mainly by bacteria that thrive in oxygen-deficient environments.
However, this is not proof of a biological source on our neighboring planet, writes Jane Greaves’ team from Cardiff University in the journal “Nature Astronomy”. The gas initially only points to unknown geological or chemical processes.
“We do not claim to have found life on Venus,” co-author Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told journalists. “We have detected the gas monophosphane, whose origin is a mystery.”
However, the researchers do not rule out the possibility that there could be life on Venus. The planet is similar in size to Earth, but is covered by a dense cloud cover. Due to a strong greenhouse effect, the temperature on the surface of Venus is 400 degrees Celsius, it is much too hot for life.
In the upper layers of the atmosphere, about 50 to 60 kilometers above the surface, comparatively moderate temperatures could, however, allow life, which has led to speculations about floating microorganisms.
The scientists had analyzed Venus with the James Clerk Maxwell telescope in Hawaii and the Atacama telescope field in the Chilean Andes. In the process, they discovered spectral lines that only occur in monophosphane.
— Hector Pascua, Source: dw.com Picture: stockilyapp.com
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