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Venus shows signs of potential alien life

Microbes unlike any life on Earth could potentially be thriving in the clouds of Venus, according to a new discovery by astronomers

Scientists have discovered a rare molecule within the clouds of the planet Venus, which suggests that there could be colonies of living microbes thriving in the oxygen-free environment high up in the planet’s atmosphere.

While the surface on Venus is far too hot to sustain life, with a mean temperature of around 464C (867F), astronomers have speculated that life could survive high in the planet’s atmosphere where conditions are much more moderate.

A new international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves from Cardiff University, have announced that the discovery of phosphine gas within these high clouds on Venus, a molecule that is produced on Earth by microbes that can survive in similar oxygen-free environments.

This comes after Israel has become the first country across the globe to announce that it will put in place a second national lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced the decision in a news conference after infection and death rates soared.

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, first detected the phosphine molecules on Venus, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus atoms.

“This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity, really – taking advantage of the JCMT’s powerful technology,” said Professor Greaves, who led the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’ spectrum, it was a shock!”

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After confirming the presence of the phosphine molecules in the atmosphere, the international team of astronomers went on to run a number of calculations to see where the molecules could have come from.

Microbial life on the second planet from the Sun is expected to be very different to that on Earth, however, as the microbes would need to survive in the hyper-acidic conditions of the planet’s clouds, that are made almost entirely from sulphuric acid.

Venus shows signs of alien life detected
An illustration of Phosphine Molecules in Venus’ atmosphere

On Earth, bacteria produces phosphine gas by absorbing phosphate minerals and combining to it, the chemical hydrogen. This process costs the bacteria energy rather than gives it to them, meaning that the evolutionary purpose for the process is currently unclear.

This comes after the EU has said that it has “serious concerns” about the UK’s move to override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement deal as Maros Sefcovic, an EU official, was speaking ahead of the emergency talks with Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, on how the changes could potentially affect Northern Ireland.

The president of the Royal Astronomical Society, Professor Emma Bunce, congratulated the team of astronomers on their work, calling for a new mission to Venus in order to further investigate their findings.

“A key question in science is whether life exists beyond Earth, and the discovery by Professor Jane Greaves and her team is a key step forward in that quest,” said Professor Bunce.

“I’m particularly delighted to see UK scientists leading such an important breakthrough – something that makes a strong case for a return space mission to Venus,” she added.

Eve Cooper
Eve Cooper
I've been writing articles and stories for as long as I can remember and in the past few years I've had the fortune of turning that love & passion for writing into my job 🙂

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