Scitentists last week anounced that a chemical which could be the result of a biological process was discovered in the clouds of Venus. While phosphine, the gas which was discovered, itself is not an indicator of life, the current understanding of it is that the only way it can form is through microbial life.
Researchers have wasted no time in speculating how the potential byproduct of life got to Venus, with one theory suggesting it was taken there from Earth.
A study from Harvard University scientists claim a comet or asteroid which passed through the atmosphere of Earth may have picked up some microbes from our planet on its journey.
The researchers got their inspiration from a 12-inch meteor which shot through the sky over Australia in 2017.
The meteor created a huge fireball in the sky, but skimmed by at such an angle that it entered and then exited the atmosphere.
Harvard scientists Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb believe a space rock of any kind could theoretically pick up microbes while in the atmosphere, and then transport them to another planet.
The duo calculated that when the 2017 meteor passed through the atmosphere, it could have picked up about 10,000 microbial colonies, according to a study they conducted back in April.
The research said: “The total number of [potentially life-bearing] objects captured by exoplanetary systems over the lifetime of the solar system is 10^7 to 10^9, with the total number of objects with the possibility of living microbes on them at the time of capture estimated to be 10 to 1,000.”
Now the researchers have applied their study to new research, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and believe Earth could have provided the ingredients for life to Venus.
The new study said: “This potentially viable mechanism for transferring life between the two planets implies that if Venusian life exists, its origin may be fundamentally indistinguishable from that of terrestrial life, and a second genesis may be impossible to prove.”
While many are excited by the prospect of life on Venus, scientists warn not to get carried away.
For example, there could be an unknown chemical process which causes the creation of phosphine which is not biological.
Paul Byrne, associate professor of planetary science at North Carolina State University, wrote in The Conversation: “First, it’s critical to point out that this detection does not mean that astronomers have found alien life in the clouds of Venus. Far from it, in fact.
“Although the discovery team identified phosphine at Venus with two different telescopes, helping to confirm the initial detection, phosphine gas can result from several processes that are unrelated to life, such as lightning, meteor impacts or even volcanic activity.”
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