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Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Astronomers seem to have found traces (about 20 parts per billion) of a toxic gas called phosphine (PH3) in Venus's atmosphere (P).

"What's the big deal?", you asks, dear hard-to-impress reader?

Weeell, see, the "presence of PH3 is unexplained after exhaustive study of steady-state chemistry and photochemical pathways, with no currently known abiotic production routes in Venus’s atmosphere, clouds, surface and subsurface, or from lightning, volcanic or meteoritic delivery. [Therefore] PH3 could originate from unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or, by analogy with biological production of PH3 on Earth, [- and that's the treat, dear reader -] from the presence of life [and, in that case, of a bug's life (hehe, see what I did? Eh?), most probably...]" (P)

The astro brains, for their study, used data collected by the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in 2017 and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in 2019, which revealed the spectral signature of phosphine.

This dumb blog, right below, provides you, dear reader, a snapshot of Venus and a transcription of its comment on the matter.

Venus comments the possibility of hosting microbial life (by @sciencemug)
Life on Venus (by @sciencemug)
[Venus pic by NASA is a Public Domain image (source: Wikimedia Commons); adapted by @sciencemug]

The paper this post is about (P)
-  Greaves, J.S., Richards, A.M.S., Bains, W., Rimmer, P.B., Sagawa, H., Clements, D.L., Seager, S., Petkowski, J.J., Sousa-Silva, C., Ranjan, S., et al. (2020). Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nature Astronomy 1–10.