On Monday, Scientists said that they have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit Earth’s inhospitable neighbour, a sign of potential life beyond Earth.

Phosphine molecules found on Earth are a result of human industry or the actions of microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. The researchers did not discover actual life forms, but there is a possibility that life on Venus might exist. The international scientific team first spotted the molecules using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and later confirmed the news after using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile.

“We have detected a rare gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of our neighbor planet Venus,” said Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and lead author of a report published in Nature Astronomy. “And the reason for our excitement is that phosphine gas on Earth is made by microorganisms that live in oxygen-free environments. And so there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus.”

“In order to make this quite extraordinary claim that there might be life there, we really have to rule everything out, and that’s why we’re very cautious saying we’re not claiming there’s life, but claiming there’s something that is really unknown and it might be life,” said team member William Bains, a researcher at MIT, reported by CBS.