FP trendSeptember 16, 2020 9:26:52 AM
The Royal Astronomical Society announced yesterday that a team of astronomers had discovered an unlikely molecule in significant quantities in Venus’ atmospheric clouds. From what is known about phosphine on earth, the molecule can be manufactured industrially or by bacteria that can grow in environments where oxygen is low or absent.
For decades, researchers have suggested that Venus can sustain microbial life in its atmosphere ̵
The detection of phosphine molecules, which in turn consist of hydrogen and phosphorus molecules, could point to this extraterrestrial “air life”, according to the researchers.
The discovery does not require the presence of life on Venus, however, as telescopic information or data configurations could have affected the results. Hence, double and triple fact checking is required. David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute said, “When someone makes an extraordinary observation that has not been made before, one wonders if they could have done something wrong.”
The study was published in the journal on September 14 Natural astronomy. Clara Sousa-Silva, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who is also a co-author of the study, said, “Of course I freaked out immediately. I assumed it was a mistake, but I really wanted it not to be a mistake. “
She was also the one who originally identified phosphine as a potential biosignature. This study came after scientists discovered the chemical in January can be used as a potential biosignature gas in anoxic exoplanets. Many researchers on the same team, including Clara Sousa-Silva, took part in the recent study to examine the atmosphere of other planets and determine the presence of the gas.
Phosphine is considered a dangerous gas as it was used as a bioweapon in the past (World War I). Otherwise it is used as an agricultural fumigant. But it’s also made by some anaerobic microbes, of course, who don’t have access to oxygen. Otherwise, the gas is extremely difficult to make and the clouds on Venus should destroy the molecule before it can accumulate to a size that has been recognized.
If the gas is indeed there, there could be two possibilities – one that there are some extraterrestrial life forms on Earth’s twin planet responsible for the chemical, or one possibility that the gas could evolve without life.