While we have all been single-mindedly dreaming of setting up a human colony on Mars, a much nearer neighbor has suddenly sprung up with some interesting discovery, possibly pointing towards presence of some of form of life. In what could be perhaps be the biggest advancement humanity has made in the pursuit of discovering extraterrestrial life- scientists have discovered phosphine gas on Venus, an indicator of some sort of life form.
Now, to the average reader who does not know much about chemistry, that does not really mean anything. In fact, we have planets that are referred to as ‘Gas giants,’ so why is this one gas on the hottest planet in the solar system being considered as a breakthrough? Well, this is because according to our understanding of life forms, phosphine is a sure indicator of life, and is only present when life forms are present.
Now, the above sentence has two key parts. First, the ‘sure indicator’ part, which means that the presence of phosphine can’t be a false positive, i.e., if there’s phosphine, there’s life. Sounds exciting right? Well, the second part, ‘according to our understanding,’ would dial it down a little bit, since all the data and theories we have regarding phosphine are formed from our understanding of life on Earth, and seeing how that isn’t really a wide research group, chances are we could be wrong. Scientists have discovered that phosphine is only produced by anaerobic life forms, but that might just be a wrong hypothesis.
If I had to place a bet, I’d go with the scientists who say that this might not amount to anything. However, that does not mean that there’s not a chance. In fact, this is the best chance we have had since we began venturing into the open space.
This is good news, especially because Venus, while often referred to as Earth’s twin, is one of the most uninhabitable planets in our solar system, and life there could mean that life is abundant in the universe. However, it will not be easy to verify this claim, as much like quantum physics, observation might lead to destruction.
This is because so far, it seems like life there, if any, is not very developed. Thus, by observing it, we might disturb and end any civilizations that would have come into existence on the planet.