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Is there life on Venus?  The search party finds another suspicious trail

Is there life on Venus? The search party finds another suspicious trail

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from: Tanya Banner

Venus is a fiery hell. © picture alliance / NASA / JPL / dpa

Three years after the first discovery, the research team found the rare phosphine molecule on Venus again. It is considered an indicator of possible life on the planet.

Cardiff – when a research team led by Jane Greaves (Cardiff University) in September 2020 Discovery of phosphine in the clouds of Venus I mentioned that the interest was enormous. Finally, phosphine is a possible sign of life and Venus is located next to it Mars planet adjacent to Earth. Was extraterrestrial life within reach? The study caused an uproar Inspired more studieswhich mostly failed to detect the suspect molecule.

Now Greaves has spoken at a Royal Astronomical Society event in Cardiff – and has been able to announce something startling: With the help of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, Greaves and her research team have again targeted Venus – and they were able to do so again when they discovered phosphine.

Is phosphine an indicator of potential life on Venus?

The research group is still in the middle of observing Venus — only 50 of the 200 hours of observation have passed. However, it took Graves and her team just eight hours to discover the original phosphine. The researchers hypothesize that phosphine comes from deep in Venus’ atmosphere. But more important than the question of its origin seems to be another question: Is phosphine actually an indicator of possible life on Venus?

Phosphine is a rare molecule that can only be created in two ways on Earth: synthetically or by microbes that live in very oxygen-poor environments. “When we received the first indications of phosphine in the spectrum of Venus, it was a shock,” Greaves explained after the first discovery in 2020. But aren’t there other ways phosphine could form on neighboring planet Earth? After the first discovery of phosphine on Venus, Graves’ research team explored several possibilities. Their calculations at the time showed that no abiotic mechanism could produce as much phosphine as the research team had discovered.

Are there unknown chemical processes on Venus?

However, there may be as yet unknown chemical processes on Venus that produce phosphine. “It is a popular belief that you can make phosphine by throwing phosphorus-bearing rock into the high atmosphere and eroding it with water and acid to get phosphine gas,” Portal quotes From Graves’ current lecture.

At first glance Venus is a fiery hell, on which life is unimaginable: the surface has metal melt temperatures and the pressure is extremely high. The dense cloud cover is made up of 90% sulfuric acid – and one can hardly imagine a more inhospitable place. However, it should be possible for microbes to live in the clouds of Venus. The temperature there is only about 30 degrees Celsius – very pleasant temperatures compared to the surface of the planet.

Graves explains in one meeting with An indication was found “that there is a proven source and that’s what surveys are for – to show whether or not this is true,” Graves says. “We see particles moving very quickly,” the researcher continues.

Exploration of Venus suddenly became a problem again

No space probe has visited Venus for many years, but since the first discovery of phosphine at the latest, exploration of Earth’s neighboring planet has been high on many experts’ wish list once again. So three missions to Venus are planned in the coming years: NASA’s “VERITAS” and “DAVINCI+” missions and the European Space Agency’s EnVision mission. Above all, Graves hopes for “DAVINCI+,” a space probe that will plunge into Venus’ atmosphere and explore it in the process. “You have four laser wavelengths to assign and only three are specified,” explains the researcher. “We have spoken in favor of phosphine and are now awaiting feedback.”

The James Webb space telescope, which can use its infrared vision to search for biomarkers like phosphine, is not an option for exploring Venus: A telescope should not look in the direction of the sun because it is too sensitive—and the planet Venus is too close to the sun in that regard. (unpaid bill)