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New compelling evidence of life on Venus

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Duvniask
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New compelling evidence of life on Venus

Postby Duvniask » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:41 pm

Has microbial life been found on Venus?

Most of us are familiar with this quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the character Sherlock Holmes:

    Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

Those words might be apropos this week, as scientists announce an incredible discovery: tentative evidence for microbial life within the atmosphere of Venus.

As space fans know, Venus at its surface is scorching and inhospitable, hot enough to melt lead. It’s one of the last places you’d expect to find any kind of life. But the hints of tiny Venusian microbes come not from the planet’s surface, but rather from its atmosphere, where conditions can be reasonably Earth-like.

It should be noted that this new discovery is not yet proof of life on Venus. But the researchers make a compelling case.

The exciting findings come from scientists in the U.S. and U.K., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cardiff University, University of Manchester and others. Jane Greaves of Cardiff University led the study. The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) provided an online press briefing for journalists via Zoom last week, with three of the researchers there to discuss results. The RAS also issued a news release. The scientific were published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy today, September 14, 2020.

For as long as we’ve known about conditions on the planet Venus, thanks in large part to visiting space probes, Venus has always been considered one of the least likely places to support life as we know it. With scorching temperatures hot enough to melt lead and crushing air pressure at the surface – not to mention large amounts of sulfuric acid in its clouds – Venus is far from welcoming.

Some scientists, however, have speculated that life might be possible higher up in the atmosphere, where temperatures and pressures are Earth-like in a temperate zone. It is in this zone that scientists made the discovery.

What did the researchers find?

Simply put, they found a gas in Venus’ atmosphere that should not be there and that, on Earth, is considered a conclusive biosignature. It’s a very stinky gas called phosphine. As far as scientists know, there are only two ways to produce phosphine, either artificially in a lab, or by certain kinds of microbes that live in oxygen-free environments. Since there aren’t any alien labs on Venus (that we know of), that leaves microbes.

(...)

Source: https://earthsky.org/space/life-on-venu ... signatures

Personally, I think this is an exciting discovery: to know that we now have some rather strong evidence of life existing outside of our own planetary home, the Earth. To be sure, it must be underscored that this isn't irrefutable proof of life — we simply know of no other explanation for this gas, phosphine, appearing in the atmosphere of a terrestrial (rocky) world like Venus, especially in the quantities that were observed. Scientists are thus at work trying to rule out alternative explanations, so we may be disappointed yet. As another article from National Geographic takes care to mention, there is a possibility of the detection itself being an error:

(...)

Still, John Carpenter, an ALMA observatory scientist, is skeptical that the phosphine observations themselves are real. The signal is faint, and the team needed to perform an extensive amount of processing to pull it from the data returned by the telescopes. That processing, he says, may have returned an artificial signal at the same frequency as phosphine. He also notes that the standard for remote molecular identification involves detecting multiple fingerprints for the same molecule, which show up at different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. That’s something that the team has not yet done with phosphine.

“They took the right steps to verify the signal, but I’m still not convinced that this is real,” Carpenter says. “If it’s real, it’s a very cool result, but it needs follow-up to make it really convincing.”

Sousa-Silva agrees that the team needs to confirm the phosphine detection by finding additional fingerprints at other wavelengths. She and her colleagues had planned such observations using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a plane-mounted telescope, and with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii. But COVID-19 got in the way, and the team’s attempts have been put on hold.
(...)

Source 2: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/scie ... sphine-gas

But would 2020 really be complete without there also being Aliens, albeit microbial ones, in the spotlight? What say ye, NSG?



An addendum: some might point out that phosphine also appears in the atmosphere of gas giants like Jupiter, but these types of planets are not strictly comparable to terrestrial ones when it comes to the occurrence of this gas. Venus lacks the very high temperatures (even if the planet is a hellhole) and pressures required to form it naturally, at least by any means which we currently know of. Aside from that, on Earth is it normally produced in laboratories or by certain bacteria and decaying organic matter.
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Postby Costa Fierro » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:45 pm

The take away from this is that we've technically found alien life, if the definition is "life present outside of Earth".
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Postby Kowani » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:55 pm

excitement
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Postby Nilokeras » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:59 pm

Evidence of unknown chemistry isn't necesarily evidence of life - a lot of planetary astronomers and biogeochemistry people I've seen on twitter hesitate to draw too strong of conclusions from this because phosphine is so comparatively simple. If we found signatures of long-chain hydrocarbons or other complex molecules that would be better evidence since they would require some similarly complex process (relatively speaking) to generate them continuously.
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Postby Occidens Praseodymia » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:04 pm

Perhaps the environment is so harsh on Venus that it produces the chemical reactions to produce this substance without the need of biology.

Life on Venus but not Mars?
No way.

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Postby Gutaiai » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:07 pm

This seems pretty inconclusive to me. All it does is open the possibility of life on Venus (and then there's the question of how such organisms would even work in the atmosphere of all places). Personally, I think life is far more likely to be found on Titan than Venus, since there is liquid methane on the surface, the atmosphere is loaded with organic molecules, and its conditions bear an uncanny resemblance to early Earth.
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Kowani
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Postby Kowani » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:13 pm

Occidens Praseodymia wrote:Perhaps the environment is so harsh on Venus that it produces the chemical reactions to produce this substance without the need of biology.

Life on Venus but not Mars?
No way.

From the NatGeo article: 'The study team set out to determine whether phosphine could be made on Venus in the absence of biology. Among the scenarios the scientists investigated were volcanic outgassing, intense lightning strikes, tectonic plates rubbing together, bismuth rain, and cosmic dust. Based on the team’s calculations, none of those events could produce the molecule in such abundance."
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Postby Major-Tom » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:24 pm

If life can survive in Phoenix, why not Venus? Same difference in the summer.
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Postby Borderlands of Rojava » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:27 pm

Venusian women must be pretty hot

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Postby Salus Maior » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:59 pm

Well, considering Venus it's probably not anything alive now.

But as I understand it, there's a theory that at one point Venus was more habitable.
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Postby The New California Republic » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:36 pm

Salus Maior wrote:Well, considering Venus it's probably not anything alive now.

But as I understand it, there's a theory that at one point Venus was more habitable.

Actually one of the theories is that there actually is life currently living there, it's just that it is so unlike anything on Earth, being able to survive the harsh acidic and heat conditions that would by comparison kill any other life form that we have here on Earth.
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Postby Borderlands of Rojava » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:43 pm

The New California Republic wrote:
Salus Maior wrote:Well, considering Venus it's probably not anything alive now.

But as I understand it, there's a theory that at one point Venus was more habitable.

Actually one of the theories is that there actually is life currently living there, it's just that it is so unlike anything on Earth, being able to survive the harsh acidic and heat conditions that would by comparison kill any other life form that we have here on Earth.


Could be bacterial life.
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Postby The New California Republic » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:47 pm

Borderlands of Rojava wrote:
The New California Republic wrote:Actually one of the theories is that there actually is life currently living there, it's just that it is so unlike anything on Earth, being able to survive the harsh acidic and heat conditions that would by comparison kill any other life form that we have here on Earth.


Could be bacterial life.

I think it's being taken as a given that it is some form of microscopic life form, hence why there are proposals to use a teflon-coated balloon in the atmosphere that is equipped with a microscope. They have used a balloon in the atmosphere of Venus on a previous mission, but the difference is that it wasn't looking for life, hence no microscope.
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Postby Vetalia » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:54 pm

The New California Republic wrote:I think it's being taken as a given that it is some form of microscopic life form, hence why there are proposals to use a teflon-coated balloon in the atmosphere that is equipped with a microscope. They have used a balloon in the atmosphere of Venus on a previous mission, but the difference is that it wasn't looking for life, hence no microscope.


Undoubtedly, the upper atmosphere of Venus is really quite habitable for life in terms of temperature although the lack of any appreciable amounts of water is problematic.

One thing we have to remember is that Venus was likely habitable for billions of years under Earth-like conditions and probably got a head start on us simply by virtue of being closer to the early Sun. I would be shocked if more advanced organisms didn't exist there in the past, although finding them would be virtually impossible now.
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Postby The New California Republic » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:57 pm

Vetalia wrote:
The New California Republic wrote:I think it's being taken as a given that it is some form of microscopic life form, hence why there are proposals to use a teflon-coated balloon in the atmosphere that is equipped with a microscope. They have used a balloon in the atmosphere of Venus on a previous mission, but the difference is that it wasn't looking for life, hence no microscope.


Undoubtedly, the upper atmosphere of Venus is really quite habitable for life in terms of temperature although the lack of any appreciable amounts of water is problematic.

But as has been mentioned, the microbes in question could be so completely alien to what we know, by merit of their being able to survive in that environment, that they may not actually need water...
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Postby The North America Union » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:05 pm

Likely not the aliens we were looking forward to, but nonetheless exciting!
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Postby Leppikania » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:23 pm

I will bet $50 that further research does not find any life on Venus. I would bet more, but I'm a broke college student.

Shoot me a telegram if you would like to take me up on this.
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Postby Vetalia » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:27 pm

Leppikania wrote:I will bet $50 that further research does not find any life of Venus. I would bet more, but I'm a broke college student.

Shoot me a telegram if you would like to take me up on this.


I'm all up for a wager but I think you need to make your argument against life on Venus public.
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Postby Bombadil » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:43 pm

I dunno, if a scientist was telling me this at a dinner party I'd be like 'cool story bro'.
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Postby Neanderthaland » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:47 pm

I'm not sure if it's "compelling" evidence. I think most experts are still hedging on the side of it being some as-yet unknown chemical process.

But it's definitely a possibility worth looking into.
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Postby Rusozak » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:49 pm

Salus Maior wrote:Well, considering Venus it's probably not anything alive now.

But as I understand it, there's a theory that at one point Venus was more habitable.


It sounds like the life in question would be airborne microbes chilling in a more habitable part of the atmosphere where pressure and temperature isn't as extreme. But then again, all of our assumptions about life and where it can live revolves around Earth life.
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Postby La Paz de Los Ricos » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:52 pm

This is incredible. This definitely needs to be researched further.
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Postby Necroghastia » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:53 pm

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Postby UniversalCommons » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:57 pm

Not until we send a probe down to see what it is. It might be something undefinable with some but not all the characteristics of life. In other words alien.

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Postby Trollzyn the Infinite » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:59 pm

Occidens Praseodymia wrote:Perhaps the environment is so harsh on Venus that it produces the chemical reactions to produce this substance without the need of biology.

Life on Venus but not Mars?
No way.


We've already deduced that life did exist on Mars at one point. Adding Venus to the equation suggests that life at one point may have been more common in the Sol System. Who knows, perhaps there was once life on all the planets in it and only Earth got lucky enough to keep it. Or maybe some of them still do house life but we can't get there to see for sure.
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