What do fish bowels, swamps, and mounds of penguin dung all have in common? A noxious gas that may be the best evidence for extraterrestrial life. That’s according to researchers with MIT, which reports that smelly and flammable phosphine gas is produced by a type of life form that doesn’t require oxygen to live. These organisms, it turns out, are the only thing capable of producing the gas on rocky exoplanets, potentially making it easier to discover alien life.
According to a newly published study, phosphine can only be produced by anaerobic organisms (life that doesn’t need oxygen), meaning detecting this gas on other planets may be a sure sign that it contains alien life. Phosphine is referred to as a ‘pure biosignature,’ meaning its presence is a sign that a particular type of life form is also present — a kind that is substantially different from most living creatures on Earth.
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