Forget Mars: Astrophysicist says hunt for alien life shifts to Venus 'without a ...

ASTRONOMERS searching for evidence of alien life are going to pay much more attention to Venus, an astrophysicist has said, now that they have found a foul-smelling gas associated with life in the planet's atmosphere.

PUBLISHED: 19:13, Mon, Sep 14, 2020 | UPDATED: 19:50, Mon, Sep 14, 2020

Although would have you believe little green men run across the dusty fields of Mars, the search for alien life has cast a much wider net. From Saturn's icy moon Enceladus to the watery world of Jupiter's Europa, astronomers are looking for so-called "bio-signatures" - biological markers that could hopefully reveal the presence of living organisms. One such bio-signature, a noxious gas known as phosphine, has now been detected on Venus, fuelling renewed interest in the second planet from the Sun.


In a paper published today (September 14) in Nature Astronomy, an international collaboration of scientists has presented evidence of phosphine in Venus' atmosphere.

Here on Earth, the gas is produced through industrial means but is also produced by certain microbes starved of oxygen.

Scientists do not know of any non-biological means, such as volcano eruptions or asteroid impacts, that could release the gas into Venus' atmosphere.

Unsurprisingly, the scientific community is now abuzz with excitement something extraterrestrial could be afoot in the planet's upper atmosphere.

READ MORE: Bright star near the Moon: What is the bright light next to the Moon?

Life on Venus: Phosphine and microbes on VenusLife on Venus: Astronomers have found a potential signature of life on Venus (Image: GETTY)

Life on Venus: NASA surface photo of VenusLife on Venus: The planet's surface is likely too hot and inhospitable for life as we know it (Image: NASA)

Life on Venus: What does phosphine discovery mean? Have we found life?

According to Dr David L Clements, Reader in Astrophysics at Imperial College London, the discovery is going to shift the world's attention towards Venus.

He told "It’s going to change a number of priorities. Mars has been our favourite planetary destination for a long time, and, in the search for life, after that comes Enceladus and Europa in our own solar system.

"Our result changes that, and means that there will be much more of a focus on Venus to work out what is going on there.

"After that, it rather depends on what is producing the phosphine. If it is life, then there is going to be a lot happening.

"If not, we'll better understand Venus and what would have to be some very odd and complicated chemistry."

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