HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A telescope atop Mauna Kea recently guided astronomers to their latest discovery: Hints of extraterrestrial life in the clouds of Venus.
The University of Hawaii says the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, staffed with an international team of astronomers, detected phosphine gas in the upper clouds of the planet.
They say on Earth, phosphine is excreted by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.
“This is a very stinky, very noxious poisonous gas. We did not expect to see this in these cloud above the venus surface,” JCMT Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said.
“These are very tiny microbes. Essentially, it’s bug farts,” Dempsey said.
“If there is life in these clouds, it’s definitely not like life that we know and understand here. No life we know here on Earth would be able to survive in these conditions.”
The discovery was published in Nature Astronomy. Their findings were double checked by members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to ensure there were no other sources for the gas.
“An observed biochemical process occurring on anything other than Earth has the greatest and most profound implications for our understanding of life on Earth, and life as a concept,” UH Hilo Alumna E’Lisa Lee said.
She was a part of the team operating the JCMT when the discovery was made.
“Being able to participate in the scientific process … was an incredible and humbling experience. It is my sincerest hope that further observations will allow for greater exploration of Venusian clouds and everything beyond,” Lee added.
Additional monitoring will be needed in the future to track the gas levels. UH adds that if findings align with the discovery, researchers hope a spacecraft can be sent to Venus to take a sample of its atmosphere.