A spacecraft flying by Venus on Wednesday night could confirm recently found signs of alien life
The BepiColumbo spaceship is scheduled to fly by Venus twice on its way to Mercury, first this week, and then next August.
Science & Tech
In mid-September, astronomers announced they detected a sign of potential microbial life on Venus: the presence of phosphine gas.
The discovery needs some follow-up research. Fortunately, a spacecraft happens to be scheduled to fly by Venus on Wednesday night.
The BepiColumbo spacecraft will swing by the planet on its way to Mercury.
One of its instruments might be able to confirm phosphine in Venus's atmosphere, but chances are slim because the instrument may not be sensitive enough to detect low levels of phosphine.
When Jörn Helbert found out that a team of astronomers had discovered phosphine gas on Venus, he grew excited.
Naturally occurring phosphine on Earth is only ever made by bacteria. Therefore, the presence of phosphine gas on Venus could mean the planet harbors alien life.
But Helbert, himself a planetary researcher at the German Aerospace Center, was especially delighted because of the discovery's timing. It just so happened that a spacecraft he's using for research, the BepiColumbo, was on its way to Venus at that very moment. What's more, it had an instrument on board that could potentially detect phosphine in the superheated planet's atmosphere.
"It's fantastic," Helbert told Business Insider of the timing. "Being able to take [this] data makes me very happy."