Few days ago, a group of astronomers made a grand announcement. The researchers believe that life is possible on the Venus. They made that conclusion on the basis of a molecule found in the upper atmosphere of a distant planet, which on the Earth is traditionally created only by living organisms. Despite the fantastically bold assumption, skeptics are in no hurry to take the astronomers' claim seriously, believing that it requires the most extreme evidence.
The discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of the Venus actually made a splash in scientific circles. And today the scientists split into two camps that oppose each other. One group thinks there is plenty of doubt about what the scientists have seen in the distant planet's atmosphere.
Others are convinced that life on the Venus is not a good conclusion to come to. But even the staunchest skeptics find the findings on the presence of phosphine intriguing. The surface of the Venus is incredibly hot and science does not undertake to assert about any forms of life in conditions that can be considered to be hellish. But its upper atmosphere is relatively calm. And to figure out whether life can be present in them, it will take several years.
The phosphine molecule is at the center of the controversy. How is it remarkable? The fact that it consists of one phosphorus atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms. Phosphine is considered as a poisonous and dangerous gas for living organisms.
But the production of phosphine is carried out by bacteria that are present in rotting swamps, where the level of oxygen is low, and also in the intestines of animals. Using a powerful telescope in Hawaii, the astronomers tried to detect the characteristic dips in the radiation of the Venus.
They could indicate the presence of certain chemicals. Observing the planet, the astronomers accidentally discovered the phosphine. The discovery caused bewilderment, since the atmosphere of a distant planet is filled with carbon dioxide that can break a phosphine molecule.
Therefore, the skeptics note that maybe the astronomers mistook some other substance previously unknown to science for a phosphine molecule. Michael Way, who is a physicist at NASA's Space Research Institute, believes that other, more detailed studies are needed to confirm or refute the version of the presence of the phosphine in the atmosphere of the Venus.