Scientists Wonder About Possible Sign of Life on Venus

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Astronomers are interested in a chemical they found in clouds over the planet Venus. The chemical phosphine is a sign of life on Earth. The scientists admit they need more evidence to prove the existence of life on Venus.
Space scientists have found what could be a possible sign of life in the atmosphere of Venus.

The finding comes from a study published Monday in Nature Astronomy.

The astronomers studied Venus with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They confirmed their observations with the ALMA radio telescope in Chile.

The telescopes found evidence of the chemical phosphine in the thick clouds covering the planet. Phosphine is a poisonous gas. On Earth, it is only associated with life. However, the organizers of the study and other experts agree that the presence of phosphine is not proof of life on another planet.

David Clements helped to prepare a report on the study. He is with Imperial College London. Clements said of the evidence, "It's not a smoking gun." But he added that it may "be suggesting something."

As astronomers look for signs of life outside our solar system, one method is to look for chemicals that result only from biological processes. These processes are known as biosignatures.

After three astronomers met in a bar in Hawaii, they decided to look for biosignatures a little closer to Earth – the planet Venus. The three looked for phosphine, a molecule made up of three hydrogen atoms and a single phosphorous atom.

Phosphine can form only two ways on Earth. It can be created by an industrial process, or it can come from a biological process in animals and microbes that is not well understood. Some scientists consider it a waste product.

Clements said phosphine can be found in the bottom of ponds, the insides of animals like…
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