Venus in ultraviolet taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979 indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer.
Credit: NASA

New space missions to hellish Venus have repeatedly gotten the cold shoulder over the years, but exploring that cloud-veiled globe now appears to be receiving a renewed lease on life, quite literally.

Artistic illustration depicts the Venusian surface and atmosphere, as well as phosphine molecules. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/L. Calçada

An international team of researchers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, announced September 14 the detection of a rare molecule – phosphine – lingering in the clouds of Venus. Here on Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that flourish in oxygen-free environments.

But let’s float this key question: does the revealing of phosphine point to extraterrestrial “aerial” life on hostile Venus?

Go to my new Scientific American story for more about this new finding at Venus…and what next?

Is There Life on Venus? These Missions Could Find It – Following a tantalizing discovery, these spacecraft could be headed to Earth’s twisted twin in search of the truth

Leave a Reply