Skip to content

Astronomers May Have Found a Signature of Life on Venus

Scientists at MIT, Cardiff University, and elsewhere have observed what may be signs of life in the clouds of Venus. The astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, detected in Venus’ atmosphere a spectral fingerprint, or light-based signature of phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile. Their discovery and analysis is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

MIT scientists have previously shown that if this gas were ever detected on a rocky, terrestrial planet, it could only be produced by a living organism there. Clara Sousa-Silva, research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and 51 Pegasi b Fellow, together with her MIT colleagues followed up the new observation with an exhaustive analysis to determine whether anything other than life could have produced phosphine in Venus’ environment. Based on the many scenarios they considered, they concluded that there is no explanation for the phosphine detected in Venus’ clouds, other than the presence of life.

“It’s very hard to prove a negative,” says Clara Sousa-Silva. “Now, astronomers will think of all the ways to justify phosphine without life, and I welcome that. Please do, because we are at the end of our possibilities to show abiotic processes that can make phosphine.”

You can find the full story at MIT News, and in the video below.