In the dense, toxic clouds of Venus, it has been theorized that life exists. Here, there contains a gas that is associated with life on Earth. This gas is known as phosphine and may be the source of allowing life to exist on Venus.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrobiologist Sara Seager believes there are two
possibilities as to how this Earthly gas came about on our neighboring planet. One suggestion is that Venus creates this gas “because of some planetary process we don’t know about.” Another possibility could be that there are other life forms present here. Seager and her colleagues are not stating they have discovered life on Venus, but merely explaining that more research needs to be conducted in order to find the origin of the gas on this planet, where it does not belong.
Phosphine is a difficult compound to create on planets similar to that of Earth and Venus because it requires much atmospheric pressure and high temperatures in order for the bonds of the atoms to merge and form. Earth and Venus do not have the optimal temperature within their environments that could allow this molecule to form from virtually nothing. On Earth, however, this gas is associated with processes that do not require oxygen to survive, such as anaerobic cycles found in marshlands, rice fields, and animal feces. Scientists believe that this gas being present on any other planet may be a signal that life exists there.
With temperatures reaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit and skull-crushing atmospheric pressure that is almost ninety times that of Earth’s, it would be hard to imagine beings surviving here. Though these conditions are on Venus’ surface, the atmosphere poses a different question. Scientists believe that if life were to exist on this planet, it would most likely occur thirty miles in the air. Here, the environment and temperatures are similar to that of Earth’s, and it is possible that small organisms could thrive in this fertile environment. According to David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist and expert scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, “The cloud droplets provide an aqueous environment; there are nutrients and other elements you need for life and plenty of energy sources.”
The first discovery of phosphine on Venus was through the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in 2018 by Jessica Dempsey, director of the telescope and its findings. The second discovery occurred in Chile in 2019, confirming Dempsey’s discovery. Though this was a large step in uncovering more about Venus’ potential for life, much of the information is not known. An MIT team began to weave together every possible combination of elements capable of creating life. When the concept of lightning came into the study, the team realized it could be possible for phosphine to be generated, but only in small amounts.
As of yet, there is no scientific explanation as to how or why phosphine is on Venus and what this means for the probability of life forms there. Further research and analyses are necessary to better understand the realities behind phosphine on Venus and the possibilities this could mean for the planet