An international research group, including the Polish scientist Janusz Pętkowski, announced the discovery of hydrogen phosphide (or phosphine) in the clouds on Venus. The observed amount excludes non-biological processes as the source of this substance which opens the possibility that its source could actually be biological organisms.
Doctor Janusz Pętkowski from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) participated in the work of the research team led by Jane Greaves from the University of Cardiff. He was responsible for analysing all the possible physical and chemical processes that could potentially lead to the production of phosphine on Venus.
The breakthrough discovery is unexpected because at the moment, humans do not know what processes could produce this gas (via geological processes or in the atmosphere) on terrestrial planets such as Venus or Earth. It is known, however, that on Earth, phosphine is produced exclusively by life or is produced by industrial processes.
“It means that either the production of phosphine occurs in completely unknown processes for us, or there might be an actual life in the clouds of Venus”, Doctor Pętkowski told the Polish Press Agency PAP.
However, as the scientist pointed out, on Earth, clouds are made of water, but on Venus, their composition is very different. They consist of 85 percent concentrated sulphuric acid and only 15 percent water. Even extremophiles (organisms that live in the most difficult conditions) living on Earth could not survive in such an environment.
The research has been published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy and has also been noted by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). An additional publication will soon be published in "Astrobiology" magazine.