Inside the acidic clouds of Venus, which contribute to the planet being called a “hell scape,” scientists have discovered a new noxious gas that they think could hint at a very big discovery. Loren Grush of The Verge wrote on Monday that the finding could be a sign of extraterrestrial life.
The fumes, which showed up earlier this week, are made up of phosphine — a poisonous and volatile gas that smells like a combination of garlic and dead fish. Researchers found the phosphine in a layer of clouds surrounding Venus where the temperatures are similar to Earth’s.
David Clements, an expert who talked to The Verge about the discovery, said they didn’t find much. He called it similar to finding “a few tablespoons in an Olympic sized swimming pool.”
Still, the find is enough to get astronomers excited because of how the fumes are made on our own planet. Here, they are either manufactured during the production of fumigants and biological weapons or generated naturally by living things in swamps and marshlands. Phosphine can also be found in the stomachs of animals or in their excrement.
In 1967 Carl Sagan and Harold Morowitz proposed the theory that there is life at the tops of Venus’ clouds, which astronauts continue to believe possible, particularly in the darker regions of the formations.
By itself, the gas isn’t an indicator that Venus is supporting some form of living beings, but it’s a clue. The reporter wrote that the discovery has experts claiming it’s clear something is happening on the planet and a closer look is warranted.
A video put together by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which can be viewed below, further explained why so many scientists see what’s going on around Venus as a possible hint that something is living on the planet.
A team of scientists wrote in Nature Astronomy on Monday that even if the phosphine isn’t a sign of life, it’s likely a sign of something human beings have never encountered.
They attempted to reproduce what they were seeing using models of lightning strikes and meteors bombarding Venus. However, they wrote that none of the models they tried were able to reproduce the amounts of the gas that were floating around the atmosphere.
Clara Sousa-Silva, a molecular astrophysicist at MIT and one of the authors on the study, told The Verge that though scientists have not yet been able to explain the presence of the gas on Venus, the most obvious answer is life.