Astronomers find possible sign of life on Venus

Astronomers find possible sign of life on Venus

Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted traces of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life.

Science & Tech

Traces of a rare molecule known as phosphine have been found in the hellish, heavily acidic atmosphere of Venus, astronomers announced Monday — providing a tantalizing clue about the possibility of life. Phosphine molecules found on Earth are primarily a result of human industry or the actions of microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

The researchers are not claiming life has been detected on the second planet from the sun. But the observations suggest at least the possibility of microbial activity in the upper layers of Venus' atmosphere, well away from the planet's inhospitable surface.

"There is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus," said Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and lead author of a report published in Nature Astronomy.