The presence of phosphine in Venus’s thick atmosphere has revived the age-old question: Are we alone. IMAGE: A computer generated image shows the Galileo spacecraft in its final approach to Jupiter on December 7, 1995, a few hours before it collected data from inside Jupiter’s atmosphere. Photograph: NASA/Reuters In 1990, when the Galileo spacecraft flew past Earth on its journey to Jupiter, it carried out an experiment developed by astronomer Carl Sagan to look for signs of life on Earth from Space. The spacecraft found high levels of methane and oxygen in the atmosphere, suggesting photosynthesis was occurring on Earth’s surface. Since then we have been looking for such biosignatures not only in our solar system, but also beyond it. Based on the Drake equation — a formula proposed by astrophysicist Frank Drake to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilisations in the Milky Way — there could be 100,000,000 planets with civilisations in our galaxy. So far, we haven’t even found a colony of microbes on other celestial bodies, let alone intelligent civilisations. But the recent announcement of the presence of phosphine — a biosignature — in the upper part of Venus’s thick atmosphere has revived the age-old… Read full this story
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