Could Venus be home to primitive alien life ? Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Data collected during a NASA mission in 1978 could also point to the presence of phosphine on Venus.
Back in September there was much excitement when scientists announced the discovery of phosphine - a potential indicator of extraterrestrial life - in the atmosphere of the planet Venus.
"[The discovery] suggests either some exotic chemical process occurs we haven't got or thought of on Earth - or maybe that some kind of very robust organism survived the runaway greenhouse effect, and evolved up to live in the clouds," said Cardiff University's Jane Greaves.
The find has since prompted a great deal of debate in the scientific community and while not everyone is in agreement over its significance, one thing that cannot be denied is the importance of acquiring additional data to further corroborate the discovery.
Now, as it turns out, NASA may have actually had such data in its possession for over 40 years.
Back in December 1978, NASA's Pioneer Venus Multiprobe arrived at the planet and dropped four probes down through its atmosphere to collect as much information as possible.
One of these, which was equipped with an instrument known as the Large Probe Neutral Mass Spectrometer (LNMS), picked up what scientists now believe to be small amounts of phosphine.
It wasn't until the data was recently revisited that the significance of it was fully realized.
"We were able to extract some data from the literature from about 40 years ago," said biological chemist Rakesh Mogul from the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.
"And we think we're able to identify some interesting things. We believe that the evidence suggests the presence of phosphine."
While this discovery doesn't prove that there is life on Venus, further evidence of phosphine - especially historical evidence - suggests that the recent detection was not a one-off.
No doubt we'll hear plenty more about this over the coming months.
Source: Scientific American | Comments (3)
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