A new discovery may provide evidence that microbial life is living on Venus. Scientists have long believed that the planet was inhospitable due to high temperatures, which reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit, a crushing atmospheric pressure, and toxic clouds made of sulfuric acid.
That's why scientists were puzzled when they detected phosphine, a foul-smelling and flammable toxic gas, in the planet's clouds between 33 and 39 miles above the surface. On Earth, the gas is produced by bacteria that live in swamps and wetlands, or in the stomach of some animals. The gas is also highly reactive and should break down quickly, not accumulate in large quantities.
They tried to determine where the gas came from and searched for evidence that it was brought by meteorites, or created by a massive lightning storm, or was the result of some random chemical reaction in the toxic clouds. After ruling out other possibilities, some scientists believe that microbial life must have created the phosphine gas.
Without definitive proof of the microbial life, many scientists remain skeptical that life could survive on Venus. They said that we must send a probe to take samples of the clouds and try to locate any organic life.
"If there's life in the Venus clouds, that would be extraordinary, but there's still much we don't understand about the Venus environment," NASA astrobiologist Giada Arney told NPR. "It'll take the combined work of the Venus and astrobiology communities to answer this important question fully."
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