Life might exist beyond Earth, at least so claimed headlines across the globe in September touting possible signs of a gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. As all of Earth’s naturally occurring phosphine is produced by microbial life, the astronomical observations of the gas, reported by Jane Greaves at the University of Cardiff, UK, and colleagues, opened the door to speculation of microscopic Venetians floating in the planet’s clouds. But a flurry of papers appeared soon after on the arXiv preprint server questioning the result. This debate received airtime earlier this month at the 2020 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, where Greaves presented an updated analysis of the team’s data, which continue to point to the existence of phosphine on the planet.
The data indicate a 5-sigma detection, which is the usual standard for a scientific discovery. “If it’s good enough for the Higgs boson, it’s good enough for us,” Greaves said.
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