Scientists may have found evidence that some type of life possibly exists on Venus, according to a new study.
A study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy reports the first detection of phosphine, which is a possible sign of life, in Venus’ atmosphere.
Axios reports that traces of a gas in the planet’s clouds could signal that some form of life may exist.
According to the study, researchers found the gas, which can be produced by some microbes that live in animal intestines on Earth, using two different telescopes. The gas was detected using the ALMA in Chile in 2019 and by the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in 2017.
Scientists involved in the study haven’t determined that the presence of phosphine means there is proof of life on the planet. But according to Axios, the researchers haven’t been able to find another reason for why the gas exists on the planet.
“So far we’ve done everything we can, which is go through all the things that it isn’t. We’ve thought of every possible mechanism, plausible or implausible, that could make phosphine and we cannot come up with any,” Clara Sousa-Silva, an author of the study and researcher at MIT, told Axios.
In order to prove life exists on Venus, scientists will have to use other observatories and missions to confirm the findings.
“This is a very provocative discovery, and I think you’ll see more and more papers in the next couple years building on this as a piece of a story,” James Garvin, a planetary scientist at NASA who is not involved with the study, told Axios.
Scientists believe that Venus had oceans of liquid water like Earth millions of years ago. They theorize that a runaway greenhouse effect turned Venus into the inhospitable world it is today, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead, Axios reports.
The temperate cloud layer of the planet ranges between 30°F to 200°F, which means life could possibly survive in the mid-latitudes.
“Detecting weird, anomalous chemistry we can’t readily explain is in itself a compelling reason — amongst many other existing compelling reasons — to go to Venus to study it,” Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist who is not affiliated with the study, told Axios.