Does This Unexpected Discovery Mean There's Life On Venus?

Going all the way back to mid-20th Century B-movies and beyond, it's always been Mars that has been chosen as the source for potential alien life within our solar system. But recently it was Venus — our closest planetary neighbor, says Universe Today — that scientists are getting excited over. And they have good reason to be excited.

A new article in the scientific journal Nature titled "Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus," published September 14, 2020, included contributes from 19 experts in the field of nature astronomy. The article offers a new peer-reviewed analysis of the noxious atmosphere that swirls around the surface of Venus. The discovery of phosphine doesn't immediately capture the imagination. It might become more striking, however, when we consider that the gas is closely associated with life on Earth. Furthermore, the gas "doesn't belong to the planet's atmosphere," astrobiologist Sara Seager told the Los Angeles Times. So what exactly is going on?

Scientists tend to be cautious when it comes to talking about alien life. And fair enough: their job is to be professionally skeptical, testing and hypothesizing and never accepting a solution until all of the facts are in.

The Venusian phosphine got there somehow

But in her interview with the Los Angeles Times, Seager did not back away from alien life as a credible and genuine possibility to explain the unexpected presence of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere. "There are two possibilities for how it got there, and they are equally crazy," she said. "One scenario is it is some planetary process that we don't know about. The other is there is some life form living in the atmosphere of Venus."

The planet has generally been considered uninhabitable for life as we know it due to its dry and poisonous atmosphere, which is made up mainly of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid. Some scientists, however, have previously argued that life may exist above these noxious clouds. On Earth, phosphine is often created by the anaerobic decay of organic matter, according to the American Chemistry Society.

The scientists who made the discovery say they welcome close scrutiny of their paper. But for now, the existence of alien life on Venus is as credible an explanation of their findings as any other.