In Venus’ clouds there’s phosphine. Phosphine stinks. But its discovery lifts my heart.

A computer-processed image of Venus first captured by NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974. The contrast-enhanced version, right, makes features in the planet's thick cloud cover visible in greater detail. <span class="copyright">(NASA / JPL-Caltech)</span>
A computer-processed image of Venus first captured by NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974. The contrast-enhanced version, right, makes features in the planet’s thick cloud cover visible in greater detail. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Hazy and noxious clouds obscure the hot land below. Here in Utah, as I write, distant wildfires have turned the sky a monochromatic opal. In a time of unrest, plague and rising fear of science, joy is hard to find. Consolation, if it comes, is the sweet call of a bird, a favorite, a northern flicker above maple-red woods.

And when it’s clear, Venus, in the morning sky like a gem.

I’ve been thinking about the hazy, noxious clouds on Venus for the past few days because in its hellish sky there’s something called phosphine. Phosphine stinks. But its discovery lifted my heart.

Life is resilient. Recently, scientists revived 100-million-year-old microbes from deep ocean sediments. Another study

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