An international team of scientists reports the discovery of a gas that could indicate the existence of live microbes on the desert-like planet.
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For all Elon Musk and Jeff Bezo’s efforts to pioneer the colonization of other planets, a team of wonky scientific researchers has broken the news that life may exist on Venus. Sort of.
The 19-member international cohort of astronomers and astrophysicists published a study in the journal Nature Astronomy today headlined simply, “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus.” That title, while sounding like the name of a Tangerine Dream album, actually underscores their chief discovery: that phosphine, a toxic gas produced on Earth by oxygen-deprived bacteria, is evident in Venus’s atmosphere.
Several Earth-based telescopes confirmed the finding. Though the researchers were quick to differentiate between trace concentrations of phosphine and any assurances about little green men.
In an interview with Reuters, Massachusetts Institute of Technology molecular astrophysicist and study co-author Clara Sousa-Silva explained, “With what we currently know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life,” before adding, “I can only speculate on what life might survive on Venus, if indeed it is there. No life would be able to survive on the surface of Venus, because it is completely inhospitable, even for biochemistries completely different from ours. But a long time ago, Venus could have had life on its surface, before a runaway greenhouse effect left the majority of the planet completely uninhabitable.”
Musk and Bezos have yet to comment on the news, though one assumes they already have a team diligently working on designing bigger telescopes.