Scientists on Monday said they have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Earth's neighbour - a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit what was thought to be an inhospitable planet.
The team are now eagerly awaiting more telescope time, for example to establish whether the phosphine is in a relatively temperate part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. The worldwide team, which includes researchers from Britain, the USA and Japan, published their findings in two papers - the science journal Nature on Monday, and Astrobiology journal on Saturday.
"On Earth, phosphine is only associated with life", added Prof. They say detection of phosphine could point to such extra-terrestrial "aerial" life.
"If it is true that this phosphine is produced by biological life, then that would have huge implications for not just our understanding of Venus but our understanding of life in the whole universe", Queen's University's Connor Stone, a PhD candidate in physics, engineering physics and astronomy, said. Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr William Bains led the work on assessing natural ways to make phosphine.
- Its thick atmosphere traps in heat in what is considered a runaway greenhouse effect, rendering Venus the solar system's hottest planet. The atmosphere is made up mainly of carbon dioxide, with the clouds made up mostly of sulfuric acid. New space missions could also travel to our neighbouring planet and sample the clouds in situ to further search for signs of life. Bacteria in the clouds on Earth last about a week, but on Venus, clouds are a permanent feature of the planet's atmosphere.
Based on a press release by the Royal Astronomical Society.