Life on Venus? The Picture Gets Cloudier

The astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales, could not see any microscopic Venusians with their telescopes on Earth. Rather, in a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, they reported the detection of a molecule called phosphine and said they could come up with no plausible explanation for how it could form there except as the waste product of microbes. Five months later, after unexpected twists and nagging doubts, scientists are not quite sure what to make of the data and what it might mean. It might spur a renaissance in the study of Venus, which has largely been overlooked for decades. It could point to exotic volcanism and new geological puzzles. It could indeed be aliens. Or it could be nothing at all.

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