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Life on Venus

Life on Venus

A manuscript published yesterday (Monday, September 14, 2020) in Nature has described how recent observations made using the James Clark Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have revealed significant evidence for the existence phosphine (PH3 ) gas in the atmosphere of Venus. The presence of the phosphine has no known chemical origin, however the existence of phosphine is known to be associated with anthropogenic activity or microbial presence, suggesting that these observations may be the first indirect signs of extraterrestrial life. 

While the authors are hesitant to claim detection of life, due to the fact that the abundance of PH3 could alternatively originate from unknown photo- or geochemistry, this observation nevertheless represents an important step towards understanding the origin and evolution of life in the Universe.

Future efforts to test this hypothesis will be focused on direct sampling from within the atmospheric clouds and searches for complementary spectral features at different frequencies.

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By Sam Witte