MIT scientists find signs of potential Alien Life in Venus' atmosphere

Venus, the second planet from the Sun, has long been considered a hostile and uninhabitable world, with a surface temperature of about 470°C and a crushing atmospheric pressure of 92 times that of Earth. 

However, a recent discovery by an international team of astronomers has raised the possibility that life may exist in the clouds of Venus, where the conditions are more temperate and Earth-like.

The researchers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, detected a chemical signature of phosphine in Venus' atmosphere, using two powerful telescopes: the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. Phosphine is a gas that on Earth is produced only by living organisms or in industrial processes. It is highly toxic and flammable, and has a distinctive smell of rotten fish.

The detection of phosphine on Venus is surprising and intriguing, because it implies that there may be some biological or chemical process that is producing the gas in the planet's atmosphere. The researchers estimate that there are about 20 parts per billion of phosphine in Venus' clouds, which is a relatively high concentration compared to Earth.

The team ruled out many possible non-biological sources of phosphine on Venus, such as volcanoes, lightning, meteorites, or chemical reactions involving minerals or sunlight. They concluded that none of these scenarios could account for the amount of phosphine observed, and that the most plausible explanation is that there are some forms of life in Venus' clouds that are generating the gas as a by-product of their metabolism.

However, they also cautioned that this is not a definitive proof of life on Venus, and that more observations and experiments are needed to confirm or refute their hypothesis. They also acknowledged that there may be some unknown mechanism that could produce phosphine on Venus without involving life.

If life does exist on Venus, it would have to be very different from anything we know on Earth. It would have to survive in an extremely acidic environment, with clouds made mostly of sulfuric acid droplets. It would also have to float in the atmosphere, as the surface of Venus is too hot and hostile for any life to survive. It would likely be some sort of microbial or fungal organism, perhaps similar to extremophiles that live in harsh conditions on Earth.

The discovery of phosphine on Venus has sparked a lot of interest and excitement among scientists and the public alike, as it opens up new avenues for exploring our neighboring planet and searching for signs of life beyond Earth. It also challenges our assumptions about where life can exist and what it can look like. As Clara Sousa-Silva, a research scientist at MIT and one of the authors of the study, said: "This means either this is life, or it's some sort of physical or chemical process that we do not expect to happen on rocky planets."