Possible evidence of life found on Venus

Recently in the scientific community, there have been claims of possible life on Venus. Even in the scientific community, there have been varying opinions and debate on if these claims have substantial evidence and what can be done to further investigate said claims.

The catalyst for such claims is the presence of a flammable gas by the name of phosphine which destroys life-forms that rely on oxygen for survival.  The scientists who spotted this noxious gas are certain that it could be just one source of evidence for the claim of life on Venus. 

When discussing an issue “as contentious as life on other worlds,” Dr. Joy Buongiorno, assistant professor of environmental biology at Maryville College said, “there’s bound to be some conflicting ideas and thoughts,” with scientists coming from a variety of different backgrounds, fields, and specializations. 

Buongiorno highlighted one of the criticisms and points of contention with the claims: the interaction with the clouds of Venus. 

“We don’t know for sure if the phosphine gas was not produced abiotically, meaning without the presence of life” and that “a lot of questions [have] surrounded photochemical reactions,” Buongiorno said. 

Joy Buongiorno, assistant professor of environmental biology, samples extremophile microbes in boiling hot springs located at the high Andes Mountains. The global average surface temperature of Venus is over 400 degrees C, about four times the highest known temperature that is survivable by life on Earth.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Buongiorno

With the knowledge that phosphine can only be produced by life, whether human or microbe, Buongiorno asked an important question. 

“If we do have life on Venus, is it on the surface or is it in the clouds?” 

According to many scientists, phosphine simply should not be present in the Venusian atmosphere. It is incredibly hard to make and the chemistry of the clouds on Venus would, and should, destroy the compound before it is able to accumulate in the atmosphere in substantial amounts.

 Scientists caution that the detection of the gas should be verified but a MSN article (https://www.msn.com/en-us/possible-life-venus-heated-debate/) claims that “if phosphine really is floating through the Venusian cloud deck, its presence suggests one of two intriguing possibilities: that alien life-forms are deftly linking together phosphorus and hydrogen atoms, or that some completely unanticipated chemistry is crafting phosphine in the absence of life.” 

Buongiorno herself expressed excitement with either possibility. 

“Even if this doesn’t mean that there’s life on Venus, [it means that there is an abiotic way to generate phosphine gas which we have not seen before].”

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