A group of astronomers picked up the chemical signature of none other than phosphine in the clouds of Venus, thanks to the observational prowess of two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, per the Associated Press' not-stoked-enough report on Monday. Further research, however, is needed before anyone posits these findings as any sort of full-blown "smoking gun" scenario.
Still, there's plenty here worth getting excited about, including a public invitation from study co-author Jane S. Greaves to private companies interested in assisting with new investigation efforts:
The team, though they make it clear throughout the Nature Astronomy-published study that they aren't attempting to state definitively that there is life in or around Venus, spent time attempting to come up with non-life ways in which such quantities of phosphine could be present.
"Not a single process we looked at could produce phosphine in high enough quantities to explain our team's findings," said study co-author and MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager, who noted that this exhaustive aspect of the research included looking into other possibilities like volcanoes and lightning.
When discussing their findings in the study, researchers made repeated mentions of the importance of additional investigations, as well as noted the "substantial conceptual problems" for the idea of life in the clouds of Venus:
"If no known chemical process can explain PH3 within the upper atmosphere of Venus, then it must be produced by a process not previously considered plausible for Venusian conditions. This could be unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or possibly life. Information is lacking—as an example, the photochemistry of Venusian cloud droplets is almost completely unknown."
NASA, notably, hasn't dispatched anything to Venus in decades. A pair of potential missions, however, are currently under consideration.
Given the recent swath of updates surrounding the larger discussion of life as we know it not being a strictly Earth-bound concept, these Venus possibilities—though, again, not representative of a "smoking gun"—are indeed worthy of stokedness.
But don't take my word for it. Just ask To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science's Christopher K. Mellon, who previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in the Clinton and W. Bush years: