‘We can say that it might be associated with life,’ says researcher. Or, maybe it’s strange chemistry.
Astronomers have detected a chemical signature in the atmosphere of Venus that may be associated with life.
While the signature isn’t robust enough to definitively declare that there’s life on our nearest planetary neighbour, in a new paper published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, the international team says they have ruled out any other known sources that could have produced the chemical compound, phosphine.
“The reason we’re so excited about this finding in this paper is that we found phosphine gas, which doesn’t belong in the Venus atmosphere,” said Canadian co-author Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“We can say that it might be associated with life.”
Phosphine, chemically known as PH3, is produced on Earth by organisms that don’t require oxygen to survive, or can be created in laboratories. Over recent years, astronomers have proposed that it could be used as a chemical signature that might be associated with biological processes on exoplanets, planets orbiting distant stars.