All eyes are now on planet Venus, our bright morning and evening star.
In the 1950s Venus was one of the most dreamed of and speculated about planets in the solar system. Science fiction portrayed it as a swampy planet covered in rain forests and abundant with strange alien life. Then, after the Soviet Venera missions discovered the hellish conditions on the surface, interest waned somewhat and attention shifted to Mars.
With recent discoveries of Phosphine gas in the planet’s atmosphere, Venus looks set to recapture all of its human wonder and fascination.
Venus has always had the potential to harbour life high in its atmosphere. While its surface is baking hot with crushing pressures, its upper atmosphere is a relatively warm and clement environment.
So far we can’t imagine a natural process which could produce such high concentrations of phosphine gas in the Venus atmosphere but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation that precludes life. Meanwhile we are left to speculate about the many possibilities, including the most tantalising of all, that some form of ancient anaerobic microbial life exists, or has existed, within Venus’s upper atmosphere.