Gas on Venus ignites hope of answering: Is anybody out there?

A small amount of a certain stinky gas in Venus' clouds has astronomers abuzz. The study scientifically examined gas clouds in the atmosphere of Venus and, according to BBC Science , the new research explored ideas relating to the possibilities of a "complex extraterrestrial life " form, that might have evolved in alien worlds. Phosphine is a gas that's a known biosignature, which means it's only present when some form of life is also present - and more than that, it's a gas that also has no known false positives, at least when detected on Earth, that are mistaken for phosphine and not a result of biological life.

The gaseous cloud around planet Venus consists of phosphine (PH3), a colorless and explosive gas that smells of garlic or decaying fish.

"This is really encouraging for the hypothesis of life", Prof.

Greaves added that it was the first time phosphine had been found on a rocky planet other than Earth. In their view, some kind of living thing could-emphasis on "could"-be producing the chemical".

While the discovery of phosphine in Venus's clouds came as a surprise, the researchers are confident in their detection.

Phosphine - a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached - is highly toxic to people.

"As insane as it might sound, our most plausible explanation is life", molecular astrophysicist and study co-author Clara Sousa-Silva tells the Atlantic's Marina Koren.

The study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

This is not to say that there is no organic life out there in deep space, but that it probably won't be found on Venus. Lightning and sunlight-driven chemical reactions also wouldn't produce enough of the gas.

Venus is Earth's twin, in terms of size.

Venus' daytime temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius are hot enough to melt lead and its atmosphere is comprised nearly entirely of carbon dioxide. Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about 1 millimetre, much longer than the human eye can see - only telescopes at high altitude can detect it effectively.

Venus is an unusual planet that scientists are still trying to understand. About 30 miles above Venus' surface in the upper cloud deck, the pressure and heat are less intense, per NPR.

Greaves and her team tried to figure out where all that phosphine is coming from.

Phosphine molecules were detected in the Venusian high clouds in data from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. And those organisms would only need to pump out 10% of the phosphine they do here to explain the levels seen on Venus, the team notes. "It's not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something". These clouds are around 90% sulphuric acid.

With our present lack of understanding human origins, we must resist reaching for "extraterrestrial life" as an answer. "It'll take the combined work of the Venus and astrobiology communities to answer this important question fully".

"With what we now know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life", said Massachusetts Institute of Technology molecular astrophysicist and study co-author Clara Sousa-Silva.

"The finding itself is astonishing", Paul Byrne, a scientist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who was not involved in the research, tells the Times.



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