“Any extraterrestrial organisms we find will be made of the same atoms we are,” observes Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics, Avi Loeb, about the recent detection of a potential biosignature in the atmosphere of Venus, the nearest planet to Earth where NASA is currently considering sending a spacecraft.

“Microbes may reside there” in the Venusian cloud deck 35 miles above ground level, where the temperature and pressure are similar to what they are in the lower atmosphere of Earth,” writes Loeb in Scientific American, “in droplets at a density that is orders of magnitude smaller than in air on Earth; if so, they could have common ancestry to terrestrial life, given that asteroids occasionally graze the atmospheres of both planets, potentially transferring material from one to the other.”

This week, though, three independent studies announced that they have failed to find evidence of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere, casting doubt on whether the gas could be produced by alien microbes.

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