WASHINGTON : NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein has called for a preference for Venus after astronomers detect a sign of alien life in the planet’s atmosphere.
Venus has so far not been an important part of the pursuit of life due to its extreme temperature, atmospheric composition and other factors.
In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists said they detected a gas called “phosphine” in Venus’s atmosphere that could indicate the presence of life in the planet’s clouds.
“Life on Venus. The discovery of phosphine, a by-product of anaerobic biology, is the most important development yet for Earth’s life,” Bridenstein said in a tweet on Monday.
“NASA discovered microbial life at 120,000 feet in the Earth’s upper atmosphere about 10 years ago. It’s time to prioritize Venus,” he said.
Although Venus’s high clouds have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius, they are incredibly acidic – about 90 percent sulfuric acid – presenting major issues for any microbes who are trying to survive there.
But upon analyzing the source of the “phosphine” found in Venus’s atmosphere, the scientists ruled out non-biological sources, meaning that there might be some living source.
The team, which included researchers from the UK, US and Japan, believes their discovery is important because they can govern in many alternative ways to make phosphine, but acknowledged that confirming the presence of “life” Requires too much work.
NASA, which was not involved in this research, has an extensive astrobiology program that explores life in many different ways across and beyond the solar system.
“In the last two decades, we have made new discoveries that collectively increase the likelihood of finding life elsewhere,” NASA said in a statement following the surprise discovery.
Furthermore, with the increasing number of planetary bodies, Venus is proving to be an exciting place of discovery.
Two of the next four candidate missions for NASA’s Discovery Program focus on Venus, as is the Envision Mission to Europe, of which NASA is a partner.
NASA said, “Venus is also a planet that we can reach with short missions.”