Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds

This May 2016 photo provided by researcher Jane Greaves shows the planet Venus, seen from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akatsuki probe. A report released on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 says astronomers have found a potential signal of life high in the atmosphere of our nearest neighboring planet. (J. Greaves/Cardiff University/JAXA via AP)

By SETH BORENSTEIN, the Associated Press

Astronomers looking at the atmosphere in neighboring Venus see something that might just be a sign of life. In a study published Monday, they say they found the chemical signature of a noxious gas called phosphine. On Earth, phosphine is associated with life. It’s found at the bottom of ponds, in badger guts and in penguin guano. Astronomers tried to figure out other, non-biological ways it could be produced and came up empty. Outside experts — and the study authors themselves — say the research is tantalizing but not yet convincing.