The presence of unusual quantities of an organism-derived earthly gas on the upper atmosphere of Venus is tipping scientists to believe there’re possible signs of life on the planet of love.
One of the world’s most unpleasant and pungent gas (that smells like rotten fish) that there is, phosphine was detected in the upper strata of the Venusian atmosphere, which was present in such a quantity, without biological origin nothing can explain the presence out there.
And till date, there is no known chemical process which can evidently explain the presence of the gas which is principally produced as a result of human or microbe activities.
On earth, phosphate is the last gas someone would like to remember the smell of – it resembles that of rotting fish or penguin dung and is found in swamps and slime in ponds.
The gas is also manufactured industrially and also forms by anaerobic organisms like bacteria and other microbes.
Turns out, the bad gas is actually present in the Venusian atmosphere, while it should not be, since it is difficult to produce and the other chemicals in Venus clouds should dissolve it before it can accumulate in observable quantities.
According to the finding, there is “no currently known abiotic production (of phosphate) routes in Venus’ atmosphere, clouds, surface, and subsurface, or from lightning, volcanic or meteoritic delivery.”
The finding of course has taken the world by a storm and has legitly initiated a debate on the validity of the finding and the authenticity of the report, published today in the international journal – Nature Astronomy.
“PH3 could originate from unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or, by analogy with biological production of PH3 on Earth, from the presence of life,” the paper notes.
Earth-like, but not really
Humanity had a long crush on the second planet of the solar system. It was thought to be Earth’s twin, having the same relative mass, with nearly the same gravitational dimensions, and so on.
Unfortunately, humanity’s hopes on the plant came crashing down after reality intruded.
Turned out Venus was far from habitable, with the surface temperatures nearly touching a hellish 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and a bone-crushing amount of pressure blankets the roasting rocks.
It must be noted though, all the ordeals of a habitat mentioned above are for the ground. But high up, 35 miles or more in the Venusian atmosphere, things are less rough, it is thought of, and that is exactly where life is expected.
Earlier this year, astronomers denoted, the presence of phosphine in large quantities on a rocky planet (like Mercury, Venus, Mars) could indicate some forms of alien life in it, and just then the Venus finding came.
But what does it mean when astronomers say there could be traces of life in the hellish planet’s upper atmosphere?
“It’s completely 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,” Prof Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University, leader of the team who made the discovery said The Guardian.
It must be noted, astronomers in the finding say this detection is no “robust evidence for life, only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry.”
The Royal Observatory Greenwich astrophysicist Emily Drabek-Maunder told The Independent, as per the current understanding of Venus, it is impossible for the team behind the finding to explain the amount of phosphine found on Venus.
But astronomers and space scientists are nonetheless optimistic. An astrobiologist pointed out to BBC News, if life can be detected in the Venusian atmosphere, irrespective of the deeply unpleasant conditions “it means maybe life is very common in our galaxy as a whole.”
According to astrologers involved in the finding, the experiment was driven completely out of curiosity and when they traced the first forms of the gas, it was a shock.
Now, to further consolidate the finding the astronomers will have to keep an eye on the planet to see if time has any effect on the amount of phosphine present in the atmosphere and gather clue from where it is coming from.
But the ultimate answer to all the questions would be to send a spacecraft to Venus and study the atmosphere first-hand or bring back a sample for study in the ground lab, one of the researchers behind the study says.