New Delhi | Jagran Trending Desk: In a major breakthrough, astronomers have found a rare molecule -- phosphine -- in the atmosphere of the Venus leading to the speculation of the presence of life on the Earth’s planetary neighbour.

On Earth, the phosphine gas is only made industrially or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. The study was published today in a new paper in the journal Nature Astronomy.

An international team of astronomers, who have discovered the gas, said that for decades high clouds in Venus could offer a home for microbes which can tolerate the very high acidity in the planet’s atmosphere. The astronomers said that the detection of the phosphine gas could point towards an extra-terrestrial aerial life.

"When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus's spectrum, it was a shock!," says team leader Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in the UK, who first spotted signs of phosphine in observations from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, operated by the East Asian Observatory, in Hawaii.

The international team, which includes researchers from the UK, US and Japan, estimates that phosphine exists in Venus's clouds at a small concentration, only about 20 molecules in every billion.

After the observations was made, scientists said that sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning could lead to the natural non-biological of making the phosphine gas on the planet. However, they said that none of these could make anywhere near enough of it.

These non-biological sources were found to make at most one 10,000th of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw, the astronomers said.

Meanwhile, the Twitterati is going berserk with the news and asking ‘is it time to leave Earth?’ Check some hilarious reactions here:

While the discovery of phosphine in Venus's clouds came as a surprise, the researchers are confident in their detection.

"To our great relief, the conditions were good at ALMA for follow-up observations while Venus was at a suitable angle to Earth. Processing the data was tricky, though, as ALMA isn't usually looking for very subtle effects in very bright objects like Venus," says team member Anita Richards of the UK ALMA Regional Centre and the University of Manchester.

"In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing -- faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below," adds Greaves, who led the study.

The team believes their discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of "life" needs a lot more work. Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius, they are incredibly acidic -- around 90% sulphuric acid -- posing major issues for any microbes trying to survive there.

Posted By: Talib Khan