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Something Weird Is Happening on Venus

Chemical associated with biological life is detected in the clouds
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2020 11:23 AM CDT

(Newser) – Astronomers have found something unexpected in the clouds of Venus—a chemical usually associated with biological life. Does this mean there's life on Venus? Nope, far from it, explains the MIT Technology Review. But the gist from coverage is that the discovery is extremely intriguing. In their paper in Nature Astronomy, scientists say they were surprised to discover a detectable amount of the chemical phosphine, reports Live Science. The gas is also found on Earth, where its only known source is living things. The big caveat is the word "known": Scientists acknowledge there might be an unknown explanation for the gas on Venus, one that has nothing to do with living creatures or organisms. Still.

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"This is an astonishing and 'out of the blue' finding," says Sara Seager of MIT, one of the researchers, per the New York Times. "It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus' atmosphere." Venus often gets overlooked as a source of life because of its inhabitable environment: Any human would die there in a blink because of temperatures around 900 degrees Fahrenheit, air that's mostly carbon dioxide, and a surface pressure roughly 100 times greater than here on Earth. Thus, the discovery is "extraordinary," says another of the researchers, Clara Sousa-Silva of Harvard. "We may not know just how extraordinary without going back to Venus." (Read more Venus stories.)

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