Astronomers discover possible trace of life on Venus

Updated: 16 September, 2020 07:54 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Astronomers find phosphine gas in highly toxic atmosphere of Venus, indicating presence of microbes and possibility of alien life

View of planet Venus from space
View of planet Venus from space

An international team of astronomers from Cardiff University, UK, on Monday sent ripples through the global scientific community after they detected the presence of a chemical called phosphine in the harshly inhospitable atmosphere of Venus. The finding, if confirmed by other telescopic observations could well indicate the presence of life on a planet that has often been overlooked for signs of extraterrestrial life in the recent past.

On Earth, phosphine is produced by bacteria in oxygen-deficient environments. Hence, it's detection on Venus can potentially mean that something 'alive' is the only possible explanation for being the source of the phosphine.

Speaking with mid-day, Arvind Paranjpye, director of Nehru Planetarium, said, "The idea of life existing only on Earth, in this universe, is not plausible for many astronomers, given the high number of stars and planets that exist. But the main question is, how does one go about finding this life that may possibly exist somewhere else apart from Earth? There are two ways — the first is by actually seeing things, like trees, animals, etc, which we have not seen till date. The other is to look at the presence of microbial life."

"What these scientists found was that phosphine, which is a chemical made by living beings on earth, very much like methane is present in the plant's atmosphere. Since phosphine is made by life forms, then it is a strong indication that it was likely made by a living being, in all likelihood, a microbe kind of small creature," he added.

However, Paranjpye said that the quantity of phosphine traces located by the team of the English scientists was not 'substantial enough.'

"The other side of the story is that possibly we, as human beings, have not understood chemistry properly. Maybe it is possible to create phosphine by other different chemical reactions. But personally, I look at this finding as making one positive step towards finding extraterrestrial life in the universe," he asserted.

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First Published: 16 September, 2020 07:07 IST

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