• Caroline Carbone

Is There Life On Venus?

Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, and is often considered Earth’s twin because of how close in size the two planets are. Venus has been often overlooked as a possible life sustaining planet because of its extremely high temperatures that averages over 800 degrees Fahrenheit; its highly toxic atmosphere, which is primarily composed of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid; and because at sea level, Venus’s atmosphere exerts a pressure more than 90 times that of Earth’s. These factors have historically caused Venus to be written off as a planet where life was not thought possible, but recent findings by scientists have called the planet’s status as uninhabitable into question.

While researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were using extremely powerful telescopes in Chile and Hawaii, they unexpectedly detected the presence of the chemical phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere. Atmospheric data from the telescopes showed that light was being absorbed at the wavelength that corresponds to a concentration of 20 parts per billion of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere. Phosphine is considered by scientists to be a potential sign of life. “Anaerobic life produces it (phosphine) quite happily,” Clare Sousa-Silva, an astrophysicist at MIT, said. Anaerobic life does not require oxygen to survive.

While the scientists at MIT believe this phosphine is evidence for life, others doubt the possibility. Some say that the phosphine could have been produced from unknown atmospheric or geologic processes. However, this finding has generated much interest in Earth’s closest planetary neighbor with Jim Bridenstein, the administrator of NASA, tweeting, “It’s time to prioritize Venus.” Hopefully, with more investment in Venus, scientists will be able to answer the many questions about the mysterious planet.


O'Callaghan, J. (2020, October 02). Life on Venus? Scientists hunt for the truth. Retrieved October 03, 2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02785-5

Stirone, S., Chang, K., & Overbye, D. (2020, September 14). Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds. Retrieved October 03, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/science/venus-life-clouds.html

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