Luckily, after re-analyzing the ALMA data, the team responsible for the original discovery concluded that there is indeed phosphine in the cloud tops of Venus—just not as much as they initially thought. Venus: Could it really harbour life? Regardless, several scientists argued at VEXAG that a modest level of even 1 ppm phosphine cannot be attributed to processes like volcanism or lightning. In the past, scientists have speculated that life could exist in the planet's cloud deck, where temperatures are stable enough that extremophiles could survive. Venus has roughly the same mass and size as Earth, so, from far away, the neighboring planet might look like a habitable world (SN: 10/4/19). “Maybe when Venus comes around on the other side of the sun again,” Greaves says, “things will be better for us here on Earth.”, Questions or comments on this article? “We’re not saying it’s life,” says astronomer Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales. Post was not sent - check your e-mail addresses! Venus' phosphine puzzle Axios - Wed 25 Nov 11:15 GMT. Discovering phosphine gas doesn’t necessarily indicate there are aliens on Venus. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1449240174198-2'); }); Shortly thereafter, a series of papers was published that questioned the observations and conclusions, with one team going as far as to say there was "no phosphine" in Venus's atmosphere at all. Your opinions are important to us. An image of Venus, made with data recorded by Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft in 2016. Greaves looked at Venus with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii over five mornings in June 2017, aiming to set a detectability benchmark for future studies seeking the gas in the atmospheres of exoplanets (SN: 5/4/20), but was startled to find the hints of phosphine. In the September 14, 2020 Nature Astronomy issue Dr. Jane Greaves reports the discovery of 20 ppb of phosphine (PH 3) gas in Venus’ atmosphere, based on millimeter-wave observations [1]. This is the team's first public response to the criticisms that were made in the wake of their original findings. Get weekly and/or daily updates delivered to your inbox. All rights reserved. “The argument that they were making was that there’s no way for phosphine to be produced by any known mechanism on Venus that does not involve life, which is a … Life on Venus? Can iron form via processes like the r- or s-process? Along with their colleagues, the two scientists continued to probe the idea. “I think a floating plastic factory is a less plausible explanation than just saying there’s phosphine.”. Published online January 31, 2020. doi:10.1089/ast.2018.1954. Astrobiology. Recent Comments. These levels, they indicate, likely peak at five parts per billion (ppm) and vary over time and depending on location. Their revised findings were also presented at a meeting of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG), a NASA community forum, that took place on November 17. When she was analyzing the observations, “I thought ‘Oh, I must have done it wrong.’”, So the team checked again with a more powerful telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile, in March 2019. Finding phosphine on Venus would be tantalizing because microbes produce the gas on Earth. Nature Astronomy. Venus’ atmosphere, shown here in a false-color image from Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft, is best known for choking clouds of sulfuric acid. Some of those processes could produce trace amounts of phosphine, the team found, but orders of magnitude less than the team detected. An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule—phosphine—in the clouds of Venus. or, by Matt Williams, Universe Today. Previous work led by astrochemist Clara Sousa-Silva at MIT suggested that phosphine could be a promising biosignature, a chemical signature of life that can be detected in the atmospheres of other planets using Earth-based or space telescopes. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy Phosphine gas found on Venus. In one critique of the original study, researchers suggest that the signs of phosphine were coming from another common gas in Venus’ clouds, sulfur dioxide, which has a similar spectrogram. Traces of a pungent gas that waft through the clouds of Venus may be emanations from aerial organisms – microbial life, but not as we know it.. Astronomers detected phosphine 30 miles up in … Traces of a pungent gas that waft through the clouds of Venus may be emanations from aerial organisms – microbial life, but not as we know it.. Astronomers detected phosphine 30 miles up in … The information you enter will appear in your e-mail message and is not retained by Phys.org in any form. The team that detected phosphine in Venus' atmosphere has reexamined the data and confirmed their discovery, with a few caveats and addendums. Today, our mission remains the same: to empower people to evaluate the news and the world around them. In the meantime, Greaves and colleagues want to confirm the new phosphine detection in other wavelengths of light. The gas absorbs light in that wavelength. It is phosphine that indicates the presence of life on earth. Something deadly might be wafting through the clouds shrouding Venus—a smelly, flammable gas called phosphine that annihilates life-forms reliant on oxygen for survival. In the original study, which was published in the Sept. 14th issue of Nature Astronomy, the team presented findings from ALMA and the JCMT that indicated the presence of PH3 around Venus' cloud deck. The only non-organic (AKA abiotic) mechanism for the production of phosphine involves high temperatures and pressures, which are common within the atmospheres of gas giants. “We’re at the end of our rope,” Sousa-Silva says. Life on Venus? She hopes other scientists will come up with other explanations. Either we don’t understand phosphorus or phosphine chemistry and Venus’s atmosphere, or there’s some life. Venus lacks the high temperatures and pressures to form phosphine the way gas giants such as Jupiter do; thus another explanation for its presence is required. If the discovery holds up, and if no other explanations for the gas are found, then the hellish planet next door could be the first to yield signs of extraterrestrial life — though those are very big ifs. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. The study by Professor Jane Greaves, of the British University of Cardiff, published in mid-September, had made the headlines, with the "apparent presence" of phosphine on Venus. Subscribers, enter your e-mail address to access the Science News archives. Because of the planet’s acidic atmosphere, extreme pressures and lead-melting temperatures, sending spacecraft to Venus is a challenge (SN: 2/13/18). David Rothery, The Open University. Whether this compound exists there or not, Venus is still a bundle of mysteries just waiting to be solved! After Greaves saw what looked like phosphine on Venus, the handle seemed even more apt. The MIT paper is Bains et al., “Phosphine on Venus Cannot be Explained by Conventional Processes,” submitted to Astrobiology – Special Collection: Venus . Here, the research team indicated that the spectral data that was interpreted as phosphine (PH3) was actually too close to sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is common in Venus atmosphere. Eric Mack, Jackson Ryan. For most Earthly life, phosphine is poisonous because “it interferes with oxygen metabolism in a variety of macabre ways.” For anaerobic life, which does not use oxygen, “phosphine is not so evil,” Sousa-Silva says. PLANET-C Project Team. Venus' phosphine puzzle. Examining the atmosphere in millimeter wavelengths of light showed that the planet’s clouds appear to contain up to 20 parts per billion of phosphine — enough that something must be actively producing it, the researchers say. Click here to sign in with Science News was founded in 1921 as an independent, nonprofit source of accurate information on the latest news of science, medicine and technology. This spectacular discovery is simply astounding. “It’s a horrific molecule. Signs of phosphine on Venus can’t be easily explained without life. ; Kaufman, M., Strong doubts arise about the reported phosphine biosignature in the atmosphere of Venus, manyworlds.space, 4 Nov 2020. Our nearest neighbor, Venus, has cloud decks that are temperate but hyper-acidic. A chemical you've likely never heard of has burst into the news thanks to scientists' announcement that they have detected phosphine, which they say may be a sign of life, in the clouds of Venus. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by e-mail. Signs of the gas phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere have faded—but they’re still there, according to a new data analysis. Jane Greaves, who led the discovery team (and is an astronomer at Cardiff University, U.K.), claims that they were motivated to reexamine their original conclusions because the original ALMA data contained a "spurious signal" that could have thrown off their results. This gas, which is not linked to living things in the giant planets of the solar system, comes exclusively from microbial or … This document is subject to copyright. Thank you for taking your time to send in your valued opinion to Science X editors. A paper on this discovery was published in … Read our COVID-19 research and news. Press Release - Source: astro-ph.EP; Posted September 14, 2020 10:45 PM; Comments; Spectra of Venus obtained with ALMA. According to Greaves and her colleagues, the ALMA data demonstrated a spectral signature that cannot be explained by anything other than the compound phosphene. Signs of phosphine first showed up in data taken with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. Not finding life on Venus would be disappointing. Phosphine, a colourless but smelly gas, is known to be made only by some species of bacteria that survive in the absence of oxygen. You can be assured our editors closely monitor every feedback sent and will take appropriate actions. Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus ... of order parts-per-billion on Venus, comparable to phosphine production of some anaerobic Earth ecosystems10. 1719 N Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, Giant pandas may roll in horse poop to feel warm, Dog ticks may get more of a taste for human blood as the climate changes, Mineral body armor helps some leaf-cutting ants win fights with bigger kin, Ancient people may have survived desert droughts by melting ice in lava tubes, Here are answers to 6 burning questions about COVID-19 vaccines, Two stones fuel debate over when America’s first settlers arrived, An enormous supervolcano may be hiding under Alaskan islands, Ancient humans may have deliberately voyaged to Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, Hayabusa2’s asteroid dirt may hold clues to the early solar system, Here are 10 of Arecibo’s coolest achievements, Why losing Arecibo is a big deal for astronomy, The new light-based quantum computer Jiuzhang has achieved quantum supremacy, Newton’s groundbreaking Principia may have been more popular than previously thought, Supercooled water has been caught morphing between two forms, phosphine could be a promising biosignature, Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus, Phosphine as a biosignature gas in exoplanet atmospheres, Doubts over a ‘possible sign of life’ on Venus show how science works, Readers ask about life on Venus and high-energy cosmic rays, Hope for life on Venus survives for centuries against all odds, 50 years ago, scientists caught their first glimpse of amino acids from outer space, December’s stunning Geminid meteor shower is born from a humble asteroid, China is about to collect the first moon rocks since the 1970s, Astronomers spotted colliding neutron stars that may have formed a magnetar, Runaway stars may create the mysterious ultraviolet glow around some galaxies. Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could A team of Astronomers from Cardiff University and MIT announced today the discovery of finding a rare molecule, phosphine, in the clouds of Venus. The New York Times . “Fifty kilometers above the surface of Venus, the conditions are what you would find if you walk out of your door right now,” at least in terms of atmospheric pressure and temperature, says planetary scientist Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who was not involved in the new study. To see earlier posts, select the Archives at the top of this page. Left panel shows the PH3 1-0 spectrum of the whole planet, with 1σ errors (here channel-to-channel) of 0.11 10-4 per 1.1 km/s spectral bin. Published online September 14, 2020. doi:10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4. “So now I hear about this, and I’m delighted,” he says. This site uses cookies to assist with navigation, analyse your use of our services, and provide content from third parties. Yesterday, September 14, 2020, an article in Nature Astronomy reported careful measurements consistent with trace amounts of phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. In addition to criticism, supporting evidence was also inspired by the team's original paper—which was also presented at VEXAG on November 17. “Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus” in Nature Astronomy published on September 14, 2020. Measurements of trace-gases in planetary atmospheres help us explore chemical conditions different to those on Earth. We report the apparent presence of phosphine (PH3) gas in Venusian atmosphere, where any phosphorus should be in oxidized forms. An international team of astronomers recently announced the discovery of a rare molecule — phosphine — in the clouds of Venus. A gas present on Earth which is called phosphine, has been detected in the atmosphere of Venus, hinting towards unknown processes occurring on the planet, suggests a study authored by Cardiff University professor Jane Greaves and her colleagues which was published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The study garnered a lot of media attention because on Earth the molecule is a biosignature associated solely with life. Is there life on Venus? Lisa Grossman is the astronomy writer. Based on their reanalysis of the data, Mogul and his colleagues found evidence of phosphorus. Still, when Greaves and colleagues searched Venus’ skies for signs of phosphine, the researchers didn’t expect to actually find any. Phosphine gas, seen on Venus, is also produced by bacteria on Earth — but we don't know exactly how Phosphine is considered a marker of anaerobic life — … A version of this article appears in the October 10, 2020 issue of Science News. Possible signs of life on Venus have experts on two sides of a controversy. Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Venus’ clouds appear to contain a smelly, toxic gas that could be produced by bacteria, a new study suggests. Furthermore, there is always question regarding the reliability of data. And now, Venus is in a part of its orbit where it’s on the other side of the sun. PH 3 should not exist or be produced at the measured levels in an oxidized planetary atmosphere like Venus’. You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details to third parties. So close, so similar and very mysterious, the planet is surprising scientists with a chemical signature spotted in its clouds. In September, an international team of … The presence of phosphine raises the remarkable possibility that there is something unusual going on in the planet’s atmosphere. (Blue shows observations at 283 nanometers, green represents 365 nm, and red representes 0.9 micron.) J.S. The paper is Greaves et al., “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus,” Nature Astronomy 14 September 2020 . Alcatur. While scientists have traditionally not suspected that life exists on Venus, astronomers have discovered signs of a chemical called phosphine in … A team of international scientists have detected traces of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus. Single-line millimeter-waveband spectral detections (quality up to ~15 sigma) from the JCMT and ALMA telescopes have no other plausible identification. If true, this situation is similar to what scientists have observed on Mars, where methane levels wax and wane over the course of a Martian year and vary from place to place. Jane Greaves (Cardiff University) and colleagues published the possible discovery of phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Some other molecules also absorb light near that wavelength, but those either couldn’t explain the whole signal or seemed improbable, Greaves says. But surprisingly, the clouds seem to contain phosphine, a potential sign of life. The aim was a benchmark for future developments, but unexpectedly, our initial observations suggested a detectable amount of Venusian phosphine was present. Traces of phosphine, or pnictogen hydride, a deadly gas, have been traced in … According to another study that was led by Leiden University (November 17, 2020, Astronomy & Astrophysics), the spectral data obtained by ALMA could be explained by the presence of compounds other than phosphine gas. Jane Greaves (Cardiff University, UK) and colleagues published the possible discovery of phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nat Astron, published online September 14, 2020; doi: 10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4. Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus. But up close, Venus is a scorching hellscape with sulfuric acid rain and crushing atmospheric pressures. In one study, which was led by researchers from NASA Goddard and appeared in a Nature Astronomy article (Oct. 26, 2020), also cast doubt on the analysis and interpretation of the ALMA and JCMT datasets. They found that phosphine on Venus is a minor gas, existing at a concentration of about 20 out of every billion molecules in the atmosphere. Gas spotted in Venus’s clouds could be a sign of alien life. Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus could possibly indicate signs of phosphine raises remarkable... Production of some unknown chemical reaction occurring on Venus life. ” was place!, but “ that ’ s life, ” she says every feedback and! Attention because phosphine gas venus Earth for future developments, but “ that ’ s,. Those is a scorching hellscape with sulfuric acid rain and crushing atmospheric pressures analyse your use of our rope ”!, researchers report September 14 in Nature Astronomy published on September 14 in Astronomy... 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