Pioneer Venus Multiprobe

NASA may have found signs of life on Venus in 1978 without realising

Illustration of the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe approaching Venus

NASA/ Paul Hudson

We may have another hint that there really is phosphine – a gas that may be a sign of life – in the clouds of Venus, and it comes from old data collected by a spacecraft that visited the planet in 1978.

Last month, Jane Greaves at Cardiff University in the UK and her colleagues announced that they had found phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere after using two telescopes to spot it absorbing light that bounced through the clouds of Venus. They couldn’t link that phosphine to any known chemical processes …