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Alien life detected on Venus.

Image Credit: NASA

On Monday, Jane Greaves and her team announced the discovery of Phosphine gas on Venus, in a paper published today in the journal Nature Astronomy. Jane Greaves is the lead author. The gas is indicative of microbes on the planet, possibly meaning potential life in another planet. It is a highly toxic gas to humans, and has the smell of rotten fish. 

Venus, a planet, has a very hostile environment to humans. Its clouds are highly acidic, and the atmospheric pressure on the planet’s surface is around 92 times higher than that on Earth. The temperature on the planet’s surface is the hottest in the whole solar system, with temperatures of 460°C being common. It has a similar size to Earth, and is the second planet closest to the sun after Mercury.

The gas was found at a concentration of 20 parts per billion, which even though gives the impression that it is present at low concentrations, it is actually not normal to be this high on Venus’s harsh environment. The Phosphine gas has an average lifetime of around 16 minutes. This means that to have a stable concentration,there has to be a continuous production of it. The Phosphine gas is usually released by anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that live in oxygen-starved environments). The scientific team that discovered the gas, used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They confirmed their data using 45 telescopes of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile.

An astronomer, Jane Greaves said , ‘I was very surprised- stunned, in fact.’ Clara Sousa-Silva, an astrophysicist in Massachusetts Institute of Technology said ‘With what we currently know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for Phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life.’ She continued, ‘I should emphasize that life, as an explanation for our discovery, should be, as always, the last resort.’

Former UH-Hilo astronomy student E’Lisa, which is one of the authors of the paper said ‘An observed biochemical process occurring on anything other than Earth has the greatest and most profound implications for our understanding of life on Earth, and life as a concept.’

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