Sunday, September 27, 2020
Home Lead Story Possible Sign of Life on Venus: Astronomers

Possible Sign of Life on Venus: Astronomers

Astronomers spot possible marker of life on Venus

In an astonishing discovery, astronomers have spotted a possible marker of life on Venus, a planet which has not been a significant part of the search for life because of its extreme temperatures, atmospheric composition and other factors.

The astronomers were surprised when they found the presence of a chemical called “phosphine” in the atmosphere of Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty.

Doing an analysis of the source of the chemical, the scientists ruled out non-biological sources, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday and another paper submitted to the journal Astrobiology.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter for more updates. 

“When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock!”, said 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 Hawai’i.

Venus
Venus is hotter than Mercury despite being further away from the Sun. Unsplash

Confirming their discovery required using 45 antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, a more sensitive telescope in which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a partner.

Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about one 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 twenty 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.

Want to read more in hindi? Check out: संयुक्त राष्ट्र महासभा ने कोविड-19 पर लिया संकल्प

Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it.

Venus
Unlike the other planets in our solar system, Venus spins clockwise on its axis. Unsplash

These non-biological sources were found to make at most one ten thousandth of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw. To create the observed quantity of phosphine (which consists of hydrogen and phosphorus) on Venus, terrestrial organisms would only need to work at about 10 per cent of their maximum productivity, according to the team.

Earth bacteria are known to make phosphine: they take up phosphate from minerals or biological material, add hydrogen, and ultimately expel phosphine. Any organisms on Venus will probably be very different to their Earth cousins, but they too could be the source of phosphine in the atmosphere.

While the discovery of phosphine in Venus’s clouds came as a surprise, the researchers are confident in their detection. “In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing — faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below,” added Greaves, who led the study published on Monday in Nature Astronomy.

The team believes their discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of “life” needs a lot more work. Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius, they are incredibly acidic — around 90 per cent sulphuric acid — posing major issues for any microbes trying to survive there. “The non-biological production of phosphine on Venus is excluded by our current understanding of phosphine chemistry in rocky planets’ atmospheres,” said ESO astronomer and ALMA European Operations Manager Leonardo Testi, who did not participate in the new study.

“Confirming the existence of life on Venus’s atmosphere would be a major breakthrough for astrobiology; thus, it is essential to follow-up on this exciting result with theoretical and observational studies to exclude the possibility that phosphine on rocky planets may also have a chemical origin different than on Earth.”

Also Read: Breakups Amidst Lockdown Can Be Tough: Bollywood

Reacting to the publication of the paper, NASA on Monday said that it trusts “in the scientific peer review process and look forward to the robust discussion that will follow its publication.”

“A paper about chemistry on Venus was published today in Nature Astronomy. NASA was not involved in the research and cannot comment directly on the findings,” the US space agency said. (IANS)

STAY CONNECTED

19,134FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,776FollowersFollow

Most Popular

7 Money Tips to Travel for Hard-line Backpackers

Travel is something that every millennial love to do, but most of the time it can also turn out to be very costly especially...

People Neglect Fear of COVID as Food Orders Outrush

If you are among those who are thrilled to once again see food delivery boys all around or plan to visit a restaurant and...

Demand for Indian Animation Witnesses a Substantial Growth

With demand for Indian animated content growing among global audiences, especially with children who are a significant consumer group for animations like cartoon shows,...

Treatment and Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Heart

From the time the first Coronavirus case was recorded in China, to India's numbers crossing four million, COVID-19 has millions of lives under its...

The Vogue Change of Footwear in India

Covid-19 has changed consumer buying patterns across segments, ranging from FMCG, personal care, apparel to footwear. The change has also led manufacturers to take...

Daughters’ Day: Entertainment Industry Showers Their Little Girls With Love

From megastar Amitabh Bachchan to Ajay Devgn and Ayushmann Khurrana, several stars took to social media to shower their daughters with love on the...

When “Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein” Released, it was Flop But Slowly Became Iconic: Madhavan

When Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein released in 2001, the film failed to create sparks at the box office. What remained with the viewers...

This is How NASA is Preparing Astronauts for Next Moonwalks in 2024

As NASA plans to return humans to the Moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis programme, the agency has already started preparing astronauts...

Recent Comments