Stargazers have observed Venus’s vivid radiance for thousands of years. Considered a “benefic" planet, Venus has long been considered auspicious, which explains why the ancient Romans named this planet after the goddess of love and beauty.
But now there is another point of interest in the planet, less to do with love, but just as important!
Scientists say they've detected a gas in the clouds of Venus that, on Earth, is produced by microbial life.
The researchers have racked their brains trying to understand why this toxic gas, phosphine, is there in such quantities, but they can't think of any geologic or chemical explanation.
The mystery raises the astonishing possibility that Venus, the planet that comes closest to Earth as it whizzes around the sun, might have some kind of life flourishing more than 30 miles up in its yellow, hazy clouds.
Nothing could live on what passes for land on Venus; its smooth volcanic plains are a scorching hellscape hot enough to melt lead, where the temperatures exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit. High in the clouds, however, the pressures and temperatures and acidity levels would be less intense — though still vile.
All in all, it seems like an unlikely place for life. Nonetheless, the new report in the journal Nature Astronomy has astrobiologists and planetary scientists talking. Two different telescopes, at two different times, looked at Venus and saw the chemical signature that is unique to phosphine. If this gas is really there, Venus has either got some kind of geologic or chemical activity going on that no one understands, or alien life might be living right next door.