Scientists have long been searching for evidence of life on other planets – not necessarily as an escape plan for us, but to prove once and for all that we’re not alone in the vast universe.
And they may have found it.
In September, a group of researchers published a study in Nature Astronomy that explained the discovery of trace gases in Venus’s atmosphere and how it could indicate that there’s life on the planet. More specifically, in the planet’s hyperacidic gas clouds. (Venus’s surface is dusty and hot – temperatures can reach up to 880 degrees F, so it’s unlikely that anything living could survive there.)
Venus’s atmosphere contains phosphine gas, which is typically associated with biological processes. Researchers tried – and continue trying – to connect the gas to non-biological processes, but so far, they’re coming up short.
“We did our very best to show what else would be causing phosphine in the abundance we found on Venus. And we found nothing. We found nothing close,” said MIT molecular astrophysicist Clara Sousa-Silva, who co-authored the study.
The gas molecule is, at least on Earth, a byproduct of bacteria and industrial processes. Here, it’s detectable in rice paddies, landfills and meth labs (so it should go without saying that we definitely don’t recommend taking your science set out to test for it).
This could drive a shift in focus from Mars, which scientists have been exploring as a potential place for exploration, and back to the second rock from the sun. Currently, NASA is thinking about a couple of low-cost robotic missions to Venus that haven’t yet been approved.
What Do You Think?
Are you excited about scientists finding potential signs of life on Venus? Do you think it’s a better idea to explore Venus than Mars? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Twitter feed or on Facebook page!