Scientists find ‘life harbouring’ gas on Venus

The atmosphere of Venus contains traces of phosphine gas — which on Earth is associated with living organisms — scientists said on Monday, in fresh insight into conditions on our nearest planetary neighbour.

Conditions on Venus are often described as hellish with daytime temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide.

A team of experts used telescopes in Hawaii and Chile’s Atacama Desert to observe Venus’ upper cloud deck, around 60 km from the surface.

They detected traces of phosphine, a flammable gas that on Earth occurs from the breakdown of organic matter.

Writing in Nature Astronomy , the team stressed that the presence of phosphine alone did not prove the presence of life on Venus.