Scientists discover possible signs of life on Venus

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In an experiment made from "pure curiosity," scientists from Cardiff University, the University of Manchester and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scanned the clouds of Venus and detected phosphine — a gas that could be a sign of life. The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

To make their discovery, the scientists used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They were shocked when they found hints of phosphine in Venus' spectrum. The team later confirmed the detection using the more sensitive ALMA observatory in Chile.

In a statement Jane Greaves, the lead researcher on the phosphine discovery from Cardiff University, said: "This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity."

"I thought we'd just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus' spectrum, it was a shock!"

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Scan of Venus' clouds detects phosphine
2. Comparison of Earth and Venus
3. James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and ALMA observatory in Chile
4. Venus, the Sun, Earth and the Moon
5. Other processes that could create phosphine on Venus
6. Phosphene floating in the Venusian atmosphere

VOICEOVER (in English):

"Venus is about the size and the same mass as Earth. Its diameter is 12,104 kilometers. Earth's is 12,756 kilometers. Unlike Earth and all of the other planets in the Solar System except Uranus, Venus rotates from east to west. And it rotates on its axis very slowly. A day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days."

"Venus is also the hottest planet in the Solar System. A runaway greenhouse gas effect makes surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead, with an atmospheric surface pressure 90 times greater than that on Earth. But high up in its atmosphere there is a spot that is neither too hot nor too cold for life."

"To make their discovery, the scientists used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They were shocked when they found hints of phosphine in Venus' spectrum. The team later confirmed the detection using the more sensitive ALMA observatory in Chile."

"Phosphine is a 'biosignature gas.' On Earth it's made by microbes that thrive without oxygen. Other processes that could create phosphine on Venus — volcanoes, lightning, sunlight, or minerals blown up from the surface — would only account for a maximum of one ten thousandth of the amount detected."

"In a recent paper led by astronomer Sara Seager at MIT, the authors note there is a sweet spot 48 to 60 kilometers up in the clouds above Venus. They hypothesize that microbes could live there, drying up as they fall to the lower atmosphere, and then rehydrating as they return to the cloud layer by upward diffusion."

SOURCES: Nature Astronomy, University of Cambridge, CNN, Space.com, ALMA
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1174-4
https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/hints-of-life-discovered-on-venus
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/14/opinions/crazy-finding-life-on-venus-seager/index.html
https://www.space.com/venus-runaway-greenhouse-effect-earth-next.html
https://alma-telescope.jp/en/news/press/venus-202009