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Scientists discover possible signs of life on 'glittering planet' Venus

Scientists have speculated for decades that Venus' clouds might provide habitation to free-floating microbes

Scientists discover possible signs of life on glittering planet Venus

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 Sep 2020 2:50 PM GMT

Guwahati: Venus, the Earth's sister planet, has had a love-hate relationship with scientists when it comes to exploration. Now, new results suggest the presence of a signal of potential habitability on Venus. An international team of scientists uncovered substantial evidence of microbial life in the clouds of Venus in the form of an uncommon molecule known as phosphine.

The scientist community across the world has now become ecstatic after the discovery of Phosphine gas on Venus, which could signal at the presence of life on the glittering planet. The phosphine gas is generally toxic with a garlic-like smell and is found in the bodies of living beings on earth. This particular gas has also been used by terrorists as a chemical agent in warfare. As per reports, the phosphine gas has been detected on the clouds of Venus, away from the surface of the planet.

This discovery has come as a mild surprise as the Venusian atmosphere is generally considered to be untenable for the existence of life. Oftentimes, temperatures during the day can reach as high as 460 degrees Celsius, with sulphuric acid clouds hanging in the air.

On Earth, phosphine gas is released by microbes in oxygen-starved environments, such as lake sediments and animals' insides. It is also produced in the bellies of Jupiter and Saturn, which is why on rocky planets, phosphine is considered as a marker for life.

Professor Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University, leader of the team who made the discovery, says that she finds it "startling" to say life could survive surrounded by so much sulphuric acid. "But all the geological and photochemical routes we can think of are far too underproductive to make the phosphine we see," she opines.

The scientist observed Venus in 2017 with the James Clerk Maxwell telescope in Hawaii, and in 2019 with the Alma telescope in Chile. Both revealed the signature of phosphine in the upper cloud deck of Venus, giving hope about the possibility of presence of life.

For 2 billion years, Venus was temperate and harboured an ocean. But today, a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere blankets a near-waterless surface where temperatures top 450 Celsius. The clouds in the sky of Venus are hardly inviting, containing droplets of 90% sulphuric acid. Thus, scientists have been skeptical when it comes to declaring the presence of life on a planet that many consider 'dead.'

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