Life in the clouds of Venus: The presence of phosphine on the planet has been confirmed
A year after discovering phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus, a signal that many believe may be a sign of microscopic life, the research team behind the discovery has re-examined the findings. And, they say, this analysis only confirms their original findings.
On Earth, most living things release carbon dioxide or oxygen into the atmosphere. But some species of organisms that live in extreme conditions, dubbed “extremophiles,” can emit phosphorus gas, known as phosphine.
In 2020, researchers examining data from a pair of large telescopes found distinctive signatures of this gas in the Venusian atmosphere, and in concentrations that indicate the presence of life spewing phosphine.
“The chemical phosphine (PH3) is considered a biomarker because it is difficult to create by the normal chemical processes believed to occur on or around a rocky planet such as Venus,” the NASA report explains.
The discovery sparked a wave of reactions, from outright elation over the discovery of signs of extraterrestrial life to doubts about whether the phosphine signal had been detected at all.
In an attempt to solve this problem, at least as far as possible before in situ measurements by future probes can answer the question once and for all, the research team, which initially got controversial results, took a fresh look at the data. And what they found seems to confirm their original conclusion.
“Re-analysis of inherited data collected by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Neutral Gas Mass Spectrometer (LNMS) at 51.3 km shows the presence of PH3 in the clouds of Venus,” the researchers explain in a statement.
Moreover, they note that “PH3 (phosphine) is the only P-containing molecule that matches the data and is in gas form at 51.3 km above the level of Venus.
This is quite convincing, the researchers note, because “+P does not overlap with any other fragment of neutral gas mass expected from the atmosphere of Venus, which gives +P a unique and reliable detection.”
Feeling confident in their conclusion, the researchers confirmed the result, including ruling out a possible false signal from a naturally occurring process.
“It could be argued that there are very small amounts, such as phosphoric acid vapor, that could have fragmented into +P,” the researchers suggested, “but confirmatory acid fragmentation ions were not detected, and they should have been.”
In the end, the research team concluded, “We insist on the existence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, while recognizing that the dispute may never be resolved until in situ measurements in the atmosphere of Venus are returned.”
In June 2021, NASA announced a pair of future missions to the fiery world, both of which will feature instruments capable of ending the phosphine controversy once and for all. The two missions, named DAVINCI+ (Exploring Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging in Venus’ Deep Atmosphere) and VERITAS (Exploring Venus’ Radiative Capability, Radar, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy), are part of NASA’s Discovery program.
“Using the advanced technology that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, we are beginning a new decade of studying Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a greenhouse,” NASA Assistant Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement about the two new missions. “Our goals are profound. It’s not just to understand planetary evolution and habitability in our own solar system, but to go beyond those limits to exoplanets, an exciting and evolving area of NASA research.”
The launch of both DAVINCI+ and VERITAS satellites is expected around the end of this decade, so it may be some time before that question is answered definitively.
However, given the detailed reanalysis of the original signal by a team of researchers, as well as attempts by these same researchers to respond directly to each of the previous criticisms of their original finding, the options seem to be increasingly narrowed toward the original finding being credible.
Earth-like world covered by raging volcanoes found in space
Scientists at the University of California have discovered a planet
that may bear a resemblance to Earth. However, unlike our planet, this
peaceful planet is covered with fierce volcanoes. News of the discovery
was published in the journal Nature.
The new planet was discovered using the Kepler telescope, which
explores outer space in search of exoplanets. According to scientists,
the planet is in the life zone of its star and may have conditions for
the development of life.
However, the presence of volcanoes on the surface of this planet may
mean that it is not suitable for life. This is due to the fact that
volcanoes can emit gases into the atmosphere, which can be poisonous to
On the other hand, scientists believe that the presence of volcanoes
on this planet may mean there is a magnetic field that protects it from
harmful cosmic rays. This may be one of the factors contributing to the
development of life on this planet.
Although the planet is 110 light years away from Earth, scientists
hope that it could be the subject of future research. However, this will
require new telescopes and more accurate measurement methods.
Interestingly, the search for exoplanets is one of the hottest topics
in modern astronomy. Scientists around the world are looking for
planets that may have conditions for the development of life. Some of
these planets are only a few light years away from Earth.
In addition, there is a theory that life on Earth may have originated
through volcanic activity. Volcanoes may have created the conditions
for the formation of the first organic compounds, which then led to the
emergence of life.
Asteroid 1994 XD: Threat to Earth or opportunity for space exploration?
On June 12, 2023, the asteroid 1994 XD, which is over 500 meters in
diameter, will approach Earth. Despite the fact that it will be 3.1
million kilometers away, which is 8 times the average distance to the
Moon, many are asking – can this asteroid become a threat to our planet?
It is worth noting that asteroids, like comets, pose a threat to the
Earth, but the probability of collision with them is very low. In
addition, there are many programs and projects to track space bodies,
which allow you to identify a potential threat in time and take measures
to prevent it.
However, asteroids are also of interest to scientists and space
research. Studying the composition and structure of these bodies can
help scientists better understand the origin of the solar system and the
possibilities for life in space.
For example, asteroids may contain water and other elements necessary
for life, which could be used to build space stations and bases on
other planets. In addition, studying asteroids can help scientists
develop methods to defend against potential threats from space.
The asteroid 1994 XD was discovered in 1994 by the Kitt Peak
Observatory and has not posed a threat to Earth since then. Its close
approach to our planet will be an opportunity to study this cosmic body
in more detail and expand our knowledge of space.
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