Portuguese scientist Clara Sousa-Silva has been talking about the discovery of ‘phosphine gas’ within the clouds of planet Venus – a finding that suggests the potential for alien life. “We know it is an extraordinary discovery”, said the molecular astrophysicist working out of Harvard University. “We may not know just how extraordinary without going back to Venus”. In other words, a lot of further investigation is needed.
Phosphine gas, up till now at least, has been recognised as something that “only life can make”, explains Dr Sousa-Silva.
“She has long studied the gas”, writes the New York Times, “on the theory that finding it being emitted from rocky planets that orbit distant stars could be proof that life exists elsewhere in the Milky Way”.
But what seems so ‘extraordinary’ is that this gas has been detected on the hottest planet in the solar system: a planet that “eats metal, within minutes melting down and crushing spacecraft that have landed there”.
Planetary scientists in the past have hypothesized that life could exist in the cloud-layer just 31 miles below the top of Venus’ atmosphere – and this is where research could now be headed.
Says the NYT: India’s space agency has proposed a mission ‘in the coming years’ as has private rocket company Rocket Lab.