Life on Venus: Hope or Hoax
Is ‘unnatural’ phosphine on Venus a potential sign of life?
An international team of astronomers, on Monday, scoped out an unexpected E.T mine — a hazy cloud atop Venus containing traces of phosphine. Toxic and rancid, it may be, but the gas is also a bi-product of microbial life (and some industrial hustle-bustle) on Earth!
What’s more, the scientists claim the chemical’s presence is a mystery. No known non-biological processes can create phosphine in the conditions found on Venus. And if no known non-biological process can create phosphine, then what does that mean for Venus? ‘A sign of life!’ conclude some. The one question that really excites me now is ‘are we really going to meet our neighbours? Are there really extraterrestrial biological entities breeding on the ‘morning star’?
I posed the question to high-schooler, Mohammed Rashid Khan, Grade 9, and his response was one full of hope.
“Institutions and scientists around the world are in a rush to discover life forms other than humans. It is really fascinating that through organic chemistry we are able to detect such life forms in a few planets of our Solar system. Venus is a hostile planet for anyone to live in; but recent studies have shown us that life could exist anywhere,” he said with aplomb.
In the same vein, many an astronomer, or enthusiast is both circumspect and frenzied with joy.
Dubai-based, Huma Khan, one such enthusiast, said that phosphine may be a ‘sign of death’ on Earth but on Venus it could very well be a ‘sign of life.’
“Discoveries like this lead to possible theories and bigger inventions. We have to look closer,” she said.
Another Dubai astronomy-buff, Habiba, agreed to a T, with the thought that it was ‘crazy’ to think there might be lifeforms completely different than anything on Earth.
“There are a 100 billion stars in our galaxy and there are over a 100 billion different galaxies. Life is somewhere out there, and it might be closer than we thought,” she cried.
“A chance we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus,” Jane Greaves, astronomer at Cardiff University, who led the observations, said during a press briefing.
“This is very exciting and unexpected.”
To bring some clarity, however, Hasan Al Hariri, CEO, Dubai Astronomy Group, warned it was too early for celebration and excitement — it was just an initial finding, after all.
‘A bit peculiar,’ he said, that scientists were jumping on to this find, because ‘we don’t know what the ideal condition for the production of phosphine on Venus is. Same as on Earth or different? It may not even be a biological source of phosphine.’
In a statement to TheBrew, he mentioned that ‘scientists in the 90’s’ also claimed that they found a type of bacteria in a rock which came from Mars.
“We need more data about the origin source of phosphine,” he concluded.
Al Hariri, however, fully understands the heady excitement following the discovery.
“Any discovery or finding always gives us a hope for something new, better or unique. These findings of rare molecules in Venus cloud, is not a normal phenomenon outside the Earth.”
He added that despite the naked-eye sightings, Venus was a distant planet and had ‘harsh weather conditions.’
“All discoveries about this planet so far have been only through the satellite remotely, and it is too early to come to conclusion without more substantial data and details. But, yes, we can hope for something new with this finding,” he allowed with a smile.