Signs of Life Found in the Clouds of Venus – Researchers Shift Focus
At the annual meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in Cardiff, astronomer Jane Greaves from Cardiff University in Wales announced that her team has once again detected phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. This comes after a similar discovery in 2020, which faced criticism and lacked confirmation from other observations. Greaves asserts that the search for this chemical compound needs to be directed deeper into the atmosphere of Venus, and that’s where they found it.
Phosphine is a byproduct of microbial activity on Earth, with no known sources of the compound in the air. This makes it a potential marker for biological life in space. Spectral analysis of starlight passing through exoplanet atmospheres and radio frequency analysis allow for the search for this and other compounds over vast distances. However, phosphine can also be sought after on planets within our own solar system.
Greaves’ team used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii to search for phosphine in the clouds of Venus. And they found it, theoretically possible. Surface conditions on the planet are unlikely to support biological life as it is incredibly “hot” to the point of melting lead. However, at altitudes of 50 km and above in Venus’ atmosphere, Earth-like conditions exist in terms of pressure and temperature.
Attempts by other groups of scientists to find phosphine have been unsuccessful. Russian scientists dismissed the possibility outright, while Americans allocated search time on NASA’s flying observatory SOFIA, also yielding no results.
According to Jane Greaves, the search needed to be conducted at a different altitude. Her team once again detected traces of phosphine “roughly in the middle of Venus’ cloud deck.” We await the reaction of the scientific community. It is unfortunate that Rocket Lab’s mission to Venus has been postponed until 2025 or later. They had planned to fly there this year in search of the elusive phosphine.
- I'm Vasyl Kolomiiets, a seasoned tech journalist regularly contributing to global publications. Having a profound background in information technologies, I seamlessly blended my technical expertise with my passion for writing, venturing into technology journalism. I've covered a wide range of topics including cutting-edge developments and their impacts on society, contributing to leading tech platforms.
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