ESO/ALMA: Possible Marker of Life Spotted on Venus

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ESO/ALMA: Possible Marker of Life Spotted on Venus

Post by bystander » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:45 pm

Possible Marker of Life Spotted on Venus
ESO Science Release | ALMA | 2020 Sep 14
An international team of astronomers today announced the discovery of a rare molecule -- phosphine -- in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes -- floating free of the scorching surface but needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine could point to such extra-terrestrial “aerial” life.

“When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock!,” says team leader Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in the UK, who first spotted signs of phosphine in observations from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), operated by the East Asian Observatory, in Hawaii. Confirming their discovery required using 45 antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, a more sensitive telescope. Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about 1 millimetre, much longer than the human eye can see -- only telescopes at high altitude can detect it effectively.

The international team, which includes researchers from the UK, US and Japan, estimates that phosphine exists in Venus’s clouds at a small concentration, only about 20 molecules in every billion. Following their observations, they ran calculations to see whether these amounts could come from natural non-biological processes on the planet. Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it. These non-biological sources were found to make at most one 10,000th of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw. ...

Hints of Life on Venus
Royal Astronomical Society | Cardiff University | 2020 Sep 14

Astronomers May Have Found a Signature of Life on Venus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | 2020 Sep 14

Phosphine on Venus – A Step Forward to Understand Biomarker Molecule
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan | 2020 Sep 15

Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus ~ Jane S. Greaves et al
The Venusian Lower Atmosphere Haze as a Depot for Desiccated Microbial Life:
A Proposed Life Cycle for Persistence of the Venusian Aerial Biosphere
~ Sara Seager et al Phosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres ~ Clara Sousa-Silva et al
Last edited by bystander on Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added NAOJ article
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Search for Primitive Life in the Clouds of Venus

Post by bystander » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:05 pm

Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Study into
Search for Primitive Life in the Clouds of Venus

Breakthrough Initiatives | 2020 Sep 15
New evidence suggests presence of potential biosignature on closest planet to Earth.

Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere.

The science team undertaking the research will comprise world-class physicists, astronomers, astrobiologists, chemists and engineers, led by Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Physics and Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group will investigate the scientific case for life and analyze the technical challenges of an exploratory mission in the event that such evidence proves compelling. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor