He said that although he was “skeptical of it being life, I don’t have a better explanation for what it is.”. a planetary scientist and head of the Johnson Biosignatures Lab at Georgetown University, the oxygen-rich environment that later developed, Mars is currently ringed by orbiters and prowled by NASA rovers, declined to fund a number of Venus missions. The immense heat and pressures can jam the phosphorus and hydrogen atoms together to form the molecule. Not finding life on Venus would be disappointing. When Greaves and her colleagues examined their sets of squiggly lines, they saw a distinct dip, a sign of a molecule absorbing a particular wavelength of light. Telescope observations don’t produce handy readouts that say Yes phosphine or No phosphine. In 1962, the Mariner 2 probe confirmed that the surface of Venus was too hot for Earth life–800°F. The detection of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere could turn scientists’ gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life. ONE of the biggest news stories of 2020 was the apparent sighting of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere. Volcanic activity and lightning on Venus would not be sufficient to add more of this constantly disappearing phosphine, according to the researchers’ models. congratulates the team at the ALMA Telescope Array in Atacama, Chile, and the entire scientific team involved in the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, indicating the possibility of life on our neighboring planet, as was announced on September 13 in published scientific papers that were submitted to the International Journal of Astrobiology . Scientists are sparring over something more basic: the detection of the gas itself. Future missions to the planet are still mere concepts. Often called Earth’s twin, Venus is roughly the same mass as Earth. An image of Venus, made with data recorded by Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft in 2016. “It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere.”, “We know that it is an extraordinary discovery,” said Clara Sousa-Silva, a molecular astrophysicist at Harvard University whose research has focused on phosphine, and another of the authors. “We disagree on how much signal there is in different places, and then we disagree on who is making that signal as strong as it is, and how. The scientists behind the discovery had to apply mathematical equations to extract those little signals from noisy data and then try to interpret them based on their current knowledge of another planet, which itself isn’t very robust. But, just like an increasing number of planetary bodies, Venus is proving to be an exciting place of discovery.”. If there really was phosphine on Venus, she believed there could be no other obvious explanation than anaerobic life. So close, so similar and very mysterious, the planet is surprising scientists with a chemical signature spotted in its clouds. And much as Earth over time became a home for jellyfish, ferns, dinosaurs and Homo sapiens, Venus was transformed by something into a hell. In all these scenarios, life on both planets will have a common bond. If there is life on Venus, then a wet temperate world such as Earth will almost certainly give rise to an intelligent species. “Even if there’s less phosphine than we originally stated on Venus, our interpretation that it’s very hard to produce with any known chemistry still stands,” Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT, told me. One team argued that the signal was coming not from phosphine but from sulfur dioxide, which is common in Venus’s clouds and produced by plain old chemical interactions. Few have focused on the rocky planet as a habitat for something living. Chemists compare phosphine to a pyramid — one atom of phosphorus topping a base of three hydrogen atoms. Hypothetical life cycle of the Venusian microorganisms. On Earth, the gas is produced by microorganisms. Chris e Maggie relatam a reação ao dramático anúncio da descoberta do gás fosfina nas nuvens de Vênus, um gás que pode ser um sinal de vida. By Nadia Drake. By Sebastian Kettley PUBLISHED: 15:29, Mon, Aug 31, 2020 I highly recommend reading these two articles by Phil Plait and ArsTechnica about what was found. In an extremely 2020 plot twist, aliens might be real after all. But today, it's considered inhospitable to life. Here on Earth, phosphine is found in our intestines, in the feces of badgers and penguins, and in some deep sea worms, as well as other biological environments associated with anaerobic organisms. Such living things would have had to evolve to survive in a high-acid environment, perhaps with protective outer layers similar to microscopic organisms in Earth’s most extreme environments. Phosphine is shaped like a pyramid with three atoms of hydrogen bonded to a single atom of phosphorus. One of the chemicals was phosphine. If phosphene is a sign of life on Venus, it’s entirely possible it is simply only one form of life. In a paper published in August, Dr. Seager and her colleagues suggested that microbes borne aloft on air currents called gravity waves could live, metabolize and reproduce inside droplets of sulfuric acid and water. It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere. “Strictly speaking, from a scientific point of view, you can never prove that there is no phosphine,” Snellen told me, but “at some point, you have to stop looking.”, An absence of phosphine wouldn’t mean that Venus must be uninhabited. So far, such signals have been intriguing, but they are not convincing proof of aliens. Life on Venus. Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty, roasts at temperatures of hundreds of degrees and is cloaked by clouds that contain droplets of corrosive sulfuric acid. On Earth, this gas signifies life. But today, it's considered inhospitable to life. By Shannon Stirone, Kenneth Chang and Dennis Overbye. Let me answer the click-bait question above immediately by saying that life has not been found on Venus. Posted on September 23, 2020 September 23, 2020 by Dr. Paul Edmon. While Venus is similar to Earth in size, … Decades later, Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University, directed a telescope at our next-door neighbor. Another group reached decades into the past and found a potential signal for phosphine, buried in data from a NASA mission that started studying Venus in 1978. Of all those attempts, only two managed to directly capture images of the planet’s surface. The original team has revised its findings. Venus, roughly the same size as Earth, is often called our sister planet. And nobody knows whether the microbes, if real, are based on DNA like us, or something entirely different. But in the months since the big announcement, the enthusiasm has dissipated. “Despite prior speculation (mostly by the same authors), this can hardly be taken as a biosignature,” Gerald Joyce, a biologist at the Salk Institute in California who has experimented with creating life in the lab, said in an email. “We’re going to point our telescopes at a planet, and we’re going to detect a cool molecule that could be a biosignature—water, oxygen, methane, phosphine—and when we do, we’re going to argue like this again. The look for extraterrestrial life has actually mainly concentrated on Mars, however researchers at MIT, Cardiff University, as well as in other places “Because we only have that one data point.”. Instead, for decades, scientists have sought signs of life elsewhere, usually peering outward to Mars and more recently at Europa, Enceladus and other icy moons of the giant planets. Gathered on little screens in the Zoom room—this is still 2020, after all—were scientists on opposing sides of the most intriguing mystery in astronomy to emerge this year: What’s going on inside the clouds of Venus? Published 14 Sep 2020, 16:48 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 04:57 GMT. But the planet eats metal, within minutes melting down and crushing spacecraft that have landed there. She has long studied the gas, on the theory that finding it being emitted from rocky planets that orbit distant stars could be proof that life exists elsewhere in the Milky Way. Less than one billion years ago, the climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect. If phosphene is a sign of life on Venus, it’s entirely possible it is simply only one form of life. Published Sept. 14, 2020 Updated Sept. 17, 2020; Leer en español. M.I.T. The detection of phosphine in Venus' clouds is a big deal, and here's how we can find out if it really is life Sep 18, 2020 Venus might be habitable today, if not for Jupiter “All viewpoints are important, and we should treat our colleagues with respect.”. The detection of phosphine gas in the clouds of Venus—a possible sign of life—might be due to a fluke in data processing, new analyses suggest. “It’s not true that if there’s no phosphine on Venus, there shouldn’t be life.”. “When looking for life elsewhere, it’s so hard to not be Earth-centric,” Dr. Sousa-Silva said. “Remember, this is a scientific session, and we will have different viewpoints,” said Sushil Atreya, a climate and space sciences professor at the University of Michigan and one of the conference’s organizers. ... which found a possible sign of life on Venus. Ep. To make matters more complicated, it turned out that there was a problem with the raw data from one of the two telescopes involved in the research, and they would need to be reprocessed. Only fresh observations can help turn a collection of maybes into a consensus, one way or another. It can also be produced by geological processes. (The researchers later removed that wording and apologized.). Posted on December 19, 2020 by tonyheller The World Economic Forum has discovered life on Venus! Whereas frigid Mars is currently ringed by orbiters and prowled by NASA rovers, Venus is being studied by only one probe, the lonely Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki. Phosphine can’t survive for very long in Venus’s atmosphere, so if the gas were there, something would have to be replenishing the supply. While dozens of missions were launched to Venus in the past, it is only being explored by one Japanese spacecraft now. “How cool to find it on Venus.”, She added: “Venus has been ignored by NASA for so long. The controversial part of this discovery was supposed to be the suggestion that life could exist in Venus’s clouds. In an extremely 2020 plot twist, aliens might be real after all. Today, the second planet from the sun has an atmosphere stifled by carbon dioxide gas, and surface temperatures that average more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. There is virtually no oxygen and only a small trace of water vapour. In September, news about the possibility of floating, cloud-based life on Venus caused a storm in the science world as tumultuous as the sulfur clouds that … Thursday, 17 September 2020 | Pioneer. “I got intrigued by the idea of looking for phosphine, because phosphorus might be a bit of a sort of go-no-go for life,” Dr. Greaves said. Venus inhospitable. And given the amount of gas being produced, the population of these microbes would be ample. And there’s still enough of it to consider the possibility that it might be produced by some kind of life. Planetary scientist Sara Seager: This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding. And that debate unfolded with plenty of spacecraft on and around Mars, with instruments capable of sifting the soil and sniffing the atmosphere. But I’m not ready to set solar sail for Venus just yet. UFO hunters are convinced they have found evidence of life on Venus, sharing photographs of what they believe are alien-built structures. September 18, 2020 Media Lario S.r.l. Venus was the first planet human beings ever explored with spacecraft. Several researchers replicated the team’s data analysis and came up empty, suggesting that the specific formula Greaves and her colleagues had used to make sense of their observations might have produced a fake signal. No ruling body of the solar system, no Supreme Court of astronomy, will someday pass down the definitive determination about phosphine on Venus. The astronomers, who reported the finding on Monday in a pair of papers, have not collected specimens of Venusian microbes, nor have they snapped any pictures of them. It could be a chemical process that no one had ever seen before, or—maybe, possibly, probably not, but it just can’t be ruled out—some form of Venusian life. Duration: 06:34 More clips from The Sky at Night. Recorded in secret before the … While few doubt whether this phosphine is there, what kind of life in the clouds of Venus would it take to actually make the gas? On the TV show “Breaking Bad,” the main character, Walter White, makes it to kill two rivals. The Sky at Night gains exclusive access to the team of scientists behind the recent discovery of possible signs of life on Venus. “The finding itself is astonishing,” said Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University who was not involved in the research. I can see why Bowie choose to sing about Mars instead, it’s easier to sing for one thing. Mars scientists spent 15 years debating whether there’s truly methane gas—which can be produced by both chemical processes and living organisms—on the red planet, and only recently reached some agreement. A lethal technological move After much analysis, the scientists assert that something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source. It seems like these are huge disagreements, but they come down to teeny, tiny decisions and data-processing mechanisms. This is the discussion we’ll be having every time, and hopefully, every time a little better.”. The planet is currently too close to the sun for telescopes to study it without frying themselves, particularly the kinds of instruments that scientists want to use to investigate the mystery further. Greaves’s team had relied on the erroneous data to confirm the presence of phosphine, and several of the response papers had used them too. However, the thick atmosphere forms a blanket around the planet and means that the day and night temperature are the same, around 460 degrees Celsius – hot enough to melt lead. Life on Venus? Many scientists think that Venus was once covered in water and possessed an atmosphere where life as we know it could have flourished. Never miss an eclipse, a meteor shower, a rocket launch or any other astronomical and space event that's out of this world. Venus, roughly the same size as Earth, is often called our sister planet. The shortest answer is that astronomy is hard. Robotic space missions to Venus could also advance the search. “I wasn’t really expecting that we’d detect anything,” Greaves told me in September. Posted on Sep 22, 2020 in Our Solar System, Planetary Science, Planets, podcast, Solar System | 0 comments Right now, only one spacecraft is in orbit around Venus. In scientific literature, that counts as quite a salty attack, enough to make other researchers wince. One group revisited telescope observations of Venus’s atmosphere from several years ago and determined that they showed no evidence of the phosphine that Greaves and her team said they’d found in the cloud tops. This would make sense for Venus obviously because the atmosphere is just so densely composing carbon dioxide. While Venus is similar to Earth in size, mass, and … After the news came out, other scientists around the world dug into the research, and a flurry of papers started appearing online. Chris e Maggie relatam a reação ao dramático anúncio da descoberta do gás fosfina nas nuvens de Vênus, um gás que pode ser um sinal de vida. Doubts about the existence of phosphine gas on Venus—a possible … Less than one billion years ago, the climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect. The finding also follows a history of detections of gases on other worlds that can be byproducts of life. The possibility of life on Venus is a subject of interest in astrobiology due to its proximity and similarities to Earth.To date, no definitive proof has been found of past or present life on Venus.Theories have decreased significantly since the early 1960s, when spacecraft began studying the planet and it became clear that its environment is extreme compared to Earth's. But we don't see intelligent life scattered about the universe. The Pioneer Venus Multiprobe before NASA launched it in 1978. Biden Calls for Unity; California Shatters Record: Virus Update. That is more than 90 times the 14.7 pounds per square inch at sea level on Earth, or the equivalent to being 3,000 feet underwater in the ocean. Before their imaginations run away, the researchers want to gather more telescope data and see their models tested and challenged. If phosphine is lurking in the planet’s atmosphere, the source could, just maybe, be alien life. Greaves and her team eventually reanalyzed the corrected data. Let me answer the click-bait question above immediately by saying that life has not been found on Venus. At least not yet. Most of the papers haven’t undergone peer review, the careful process by which ideas are tested and honed for publication in scientific journals. 578: Life on Venus?!? Different species of molecules will absorb radio waves coming through the clouds at different characteristic wavelengths. Some researchers question this hypothesis, and they suggest instead that the gas could result from unexplained atmospheric or geologic processes on a planet that remains mysterious. Gathered on little screens in the Zoom room—this is still 2020, ... Grinspoon has written about the possibility of life on Venus since the 1990s, but was not involved in the latest research. Why would determining this simple fact be complicated? In that setting, Dr. Sousa-Silva said, life is not necessary to form phosphine. Is there life on Venus? She decided to test the idea on Venus. They’ll have to wait until the spring and summer, when Venus moves into a more convenient spot, for the next round of observations. Aliens, though, are not the subject of the current debate. Is there phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere, or isn’t there? Dr. Sousa-Silva was surprised when Dr. Greaves said that she had detected phosphine. Top panel: Cloud cover on Venus is permanent and continuous, with the middle and lower cloud layers at temperatures that are suitable for life. The 2020 WBZ Gingerbread ... “it’s probably a 10% chance that it’s life,” Yeah right. She did not expect to find it. In 1962, the Mariner 2 probe confirmed that the surface of Venus was too hot for Earth life–800°F. Dr. Sousa-Silva, Dr. Greaves and their colleagues had planned to complete additional telescope observations earlier this year. Or maybe life started elsewhere and somehow made its way to our solar system aboard a comet, or perhaps one of the spaceships that we sent out into space accidentally infected Venus with our microbes. But at a closer glance, the less lovely it becomes. “There’s not a lot of understanding of where it’s coming from, how it forms, things like that,” said Matthew Pasek, a geoscientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The NASA spacecraft Cassini detected it in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. Although the surface of Venus is like a blast furnace, a cloud layer just 31 miles below the top of its atmosphere may reach temperatures as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and has a pressure similar to that at ground level on Earth. It’s really a shame.”, David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., who was not part of the work but has long promoted the possibility of life in Venus’s clouds, said, “That is pretty damn exciting!”, The work needs to be followed up, he said, “but this could be the first observation we’ve made which reveals an alien biosphere and, what do you know, it’s on the closest planet to home in the entire cosmos.”, Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA, responded to the finding on Twitter, saying, “It’s time to prioritize Venus.”. But with powerful telescopes, they have detected a chemical — phosphine — in the thick Venus atmosphere. Like I said before, phosphene is produced on earth by organisms that are living in environments that are very poor in oxygen. The announcement in September took … Many planetary scientists, including Carl Sagan and Harold Morowitz, who proposed the idea 53 years ago, have hypothesized life may exist there. There was life here then, even an entire biosphere that did not survive in the oxygen-rich environment that later developed. There’s proof of life in the unlikeliest of planets, also known for being one of the least explored. This time, they found, all signs pointed to phosphine, and a lot of it, ranging from 5 to 20 parts per billion. In their own paper, he noted, the researchers wrote that “the detection of phosphine is not robust evidence for life, only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry.”, A similar note of caution was voiced by James Kasting, a geoscientist and expert on planetary habitability at Pennsylvania State University, who said, “The model atmospheric composition that they show is, at best, incomplete.”. The dense atmosphere of Venus exerts a pressure of more than 1,300 pounds per square inch on anything at the surface. “For the last two decades, we keep making new discoveries that collectively imply a significant increase of the likelihood to find life elsewhere,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s science directorate, who helps select missions to explore the solar system. The search for extraterrestrial life has largely focused on Mars, but scientists at MIT, Cardiff University, and elsewhere reported surprising findings in September of what may be signs of life in the clouds of Venus. Grinspoon has written about the possibility of life on Venus since the 1990s, but was not involved in the latest research. It's believed to have had oceans billions of years ago. Life on Venus is a shoegaze band from Moscow, Russia. "Even the publications that [say] no phosphine have their own different ways of saying no phosphine,” Clara Sousa-Silva, an astrochemist who studies phosphine at Harvard, and one of Greaves’s co-authors, told me recently. Yeah, yeah. The work requires scientists to draw big conclusions about faraway places based on tiny signals imprinted on the light that reaches Earth. It is hardly a place that makes visiting or research easy, although that doesn’t mean people haven’t tried. “This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the papers (one published in Nature Astronomy and another submitted to the journal Astrobiology). Possible sign of life on Venus stirs up heated debate “Something weird is happening” in the clouds of the planet next door—but some experts are raising doubts about the quality of the data. Starting in the 1960s, a series of Soviet missions revealed a furnace of a world, with a thick, cloudy atmosphere that keeps the surface so hot that lead would melt on it like ice on Earth. Sept. 19, 2020; It’s been a while — like, forever — since anyone claimed to have discovered life on Venus. I highly recommend reading these two articles by Phil Plait and ArsTechnica about what was found. (They still disagree about whether methane on Mars is a sign of life.) There is one thing, however, that appears to be very good at producing it: anaerobic life, or microbial organisms that don’t require or use oxygen. The hothouse planet, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor, suddenly looks more intriguing as a potential abode of life. “What we’re seeing is the volatile and messy process by which science plays out,” David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute, told me. Yes, indeed as of September 13th, 2020 there was compelling and rather robust evidence suggested by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, Cardiff University and elsewhere, that have observed what may be signs of life in the clouds of Venus, to be announced on September 14th, 2020. But on smaller, rocky planets like Earth and Venus, the researchers say, there is not enough energy to produce copious amounts of phosphine in the same way. In September, news about the possibility of floating, cloud-based life on Venus caused a storm in the science world as tumultuous as the sulfur clouds that … The search for extraterrestrial life has largely focused on Mars, but scientists at MIT, Cardiff University, and elsewhere reported surprising findings in September of what may be signs of life in the clouds of Venus. If there is life on Venus, then a wet temperate world such as Earth will almost certainly give rise to an intelligent species. Other scientists have raised doubts about the research. Although those numbers might seem small, that’s thousands of times more than what is in Earth’s atmosphere. But we don't see intelligent life scattered about the universe. A guide to the spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit. A few days ago, at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, one of the most important conferences in science, a certain session began with a sharp reminder, akin to a school teacher’s instructions to play nice. To a nonscientific observer, the question might seem straightforward enough. It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere. But living things could emit enough of the gas. ... which found a possible sign of life on Venus. And even if no phosphine exists on Venus—even if Venus isn’t the place where we first detect life outside of Earth—some other molecule, someday, could galvanize the scientific community like this molecule did, and spark another debate that could bring us closer to answering some of our most existential questions. What makes the discovery of phosphine in Venus’ air so compelling is that the researchers have racked their brains trying to come up with ways to explain its presence short of invoking biology. On Venus there is a sweet spot at 48 to 60 km (30 to 37 miles) above Venus' surface, in the clouds, where the temperature is not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life. Suddenly, Venus was one of the most enticing targets in the search for life beyond Earth, and in those first moments, other scientists in the field were unusually excited about the research and its implications. Yeah, yeah. The pro-phosphine side thinks the other is overly resistant to the possibility that a long-lived dream—uncovering a potential sign of life on another planet—might be real; the anti-phosphine side thinks the other is enamored by that same dream. Mars, as well as the underground oceans on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, have been the locations that astrobiologists have focused on the most. Scientists have designed and proposed new missions to the planet, but their journeys are years away. The science community is divided—enough that one rebuttal paper had the authors “invite” the researchers who originally identified the phosphine to consider retracting their study altogether. Potential signs of life on Venus are fading as astronomers downgrade their original claims. “We’ve seen it associated with where microbes are at, but we have not seen a microbe do it, which is a subtle difference, but an important one.”. In the same era, astronomers Carl Sagan and Harold Morowitz suggested that, although Venusian ground was inhospitable to life, its atmosphere might not be. And NASA, which has declined to fund a number of Venus missions in recent decades, announced in February that it would consider a pair of proposed spacecraft among four finalists competing for a round of funding. On such worlds, “as far as we can tell, only life can make phosphine,” Dr. Sousa-Silva said. 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