Clouds of Venus

Venus – acidic and hotter than an Easy-Bake oven! Perfect place for life?! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

HOW can we look for alien life from the comfort of home? By using super powerful telescopes to study other planets! 

Jane Greaves from Cardiff University and collaborators set their scopes on Venus. The team used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope located in Hawaii. 

And? They stumbled on something unexpected. Traces of a chemical called phosphine in high altitude Venusian clouds! 

WHY were the researchers shocked? On Earth, phosphine is unique to LIVING things. It’s found in penguin guts and oxygen-free swamps.

So…life on Venus? Possibly… but Venusian clouds are super acidic. Very little chance of life as WE know it. Instead, Greaves thinks a NEW and UNKNOWN type of chemistry could be producing phosphine! But IF there is life, it’d probably be microscopic organisms like bacteria.

Wow, alien chemistry – it’s literally out of this world!

Reference: Greaves, J.S., Richards, A.M.S., Bains, W. et al. Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nat Astron (2020).