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Possible life signs in the clouds of Venus

13 Apr 2021, 11:32 UTC
Possible life signs in the clouds of Venus
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Artist’s illustration of the Pioneer Venus mission, which sent 4 small probes into Venus’ atmosphere in 1978. A new analysis of the data sent back supports the previous finding of phosphine, as well as other “biologically relevant chemicals” that seem to show a state of disequilibrium – a possible hallmark of life – in the planet’s atmosphere. Image via NASA/ The Planetary Society.
In late 2020, scientists studying the atmosphere of Venus announced the surprising – and controversial – discovery of phosphine, a chemical that, on Earth, is produced primarily by living organisms. Jane Greaves at Cardiff University in Wales and her colleagues asked at the time: could the phosphine be a sign of microorganisms inhabiting Venus’ atmosphere? Maybe, other scientists said, but phosphine itself wouldn’t be proof of life, and subsequent studies questioned whether the phosphine was ever there at all. Then – in March, 2021 – a study from Rakesh Mogul of Cal Poly Pomona supported the original finding of phosphine and went further. It suggested other “biologically relevant chemicals” in Venus’ atmosphere that appear to be in a state of disequilibrium: another hallmark of life.
The new study focused on the re-analysis of data from the old ...

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