DELAWARE, Ohio (WCMH) — Scientists researching the Venusian atmosphere have detected a trace gas called phosphine that suggests microbes may inhabit the scorching planet, where the temperature is a toasty 800 degrees Fahrenheit, and the atmosphere is filled with carbon dioxide and clouds composed of sulfuric acid.
Astrobiologists noted that while not finding proof of actual life forms on Venus, the only source of phosphine in nature on Earth is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments such as swamps, marshes, and landfills, and is also highly toxic.
Probes and telescopes can detect “biosignatures” that could represent indirect signs of life on other planets and moons in our solar system and beyond.
Don Stevens, the director of Perkins Observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, explained in an email how life possibly could have survived in the roiling atmosphere.
“At 40 or so miles above the surface of Venus, the pressure is about the same as sea level on Earth and the temperature is comparable to a warm spring day in Ohio. In the high altitudes of Venus, these extremophiles (microorganisms) could find a haven. This is exactly where the researchers detected the signature of significant amounts of phosphine.”
Regarding the stunning scientific findings, Stevens wrote, “Phosphine and other molecules vibrate and spin. As they do, they emit light in the microwave frequencies of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. They can be detected even in very distant parts of the universe.”
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescopes in Chile “are designed to observe light in the microwave bands — wavelengths which the human eye cannot see but are easily observable to these telescopes,” Stevens added. “Most microwave telescopes are built in arrays of many dishes which are spread far apart to increase their resolution.” This is about the same resolution as the Hubble Telescope.
Stevens elaborated that “microwave observatories are usually built in remote locations to be free from local interference such as your microwave ovens and cellphones. They are also built at high altitude on plateaus and mountains to be above most of the Earth’s atmospheric water, which blocks a lot of the weak microwave signals from space.”