Based on discovering phosphine in the atmosphere:
Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.
Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.
Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalizing but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet.Seth Borenstein, “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds” at APNews
But hey, they can’t help treating the phosphine (three hydrogen atoms and a phosphorous atom) as if it were proof. They can be sure that popular science media will react similarly.
The paper is open access.
A friend notes that, to judge from the Abstract, the way they reasoned the matter sounds like design theorist William Dembski’s explanatory filter:
The presence of PH3 is unexplained after exhaustive study of steady-state chemistry and photochemical pathways, with no currently known abiotic production routes in Venus’s atmosphere, clouds, surface and subsurface, or from lightning, volcanic or meteoritic delivery. – Greaves, J.S., Richards, A.M.S., Bains, W. et al. Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nat Astron (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4
Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets:
- Life that originated independently of Earth
- Life that arrived on Venus from Earth during the early formation of the planets?
- Life from comets that struck both planets?
- Not life; just an unusual chemical formation.
Note: It appears that there is now big money behind the search for alien intelligences, which generally presupposes alien life of some kind. Could that power the noticeable spike in stories along these lines? No, not a conspiracy. More like: A rising tide floats all boats and there is nothing like a river of cash to float any given boat. We shall see what happens next.
See: Big money powers the hunt for alien intelligence. Okay, billionaires can spend their money as they like; that’s part of being a billionaire. But now, question: If they still don’t find anything out there, can any conclusions be drawn?