Quantcast
Connect with us

Venus discovery ‘most significant development yet’ in search for extraterrestrial life: NASA chief

Published

on

NASA photo of administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The atmosphere of Venus contains a gas that on Earth can be attributed to living organisms, scientists said Monday, a discovery the head of NASA called “the most significant development yet” in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

Conditions on our planetary neighbour are often described as hellish with daytime temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, a team of experts detected traces of phosphine, a flammable gas that on Earth often occurs from the breakdown of organic matter.

They used telescopes in Hawaii and Chile’s Atacama Desert to observe Venus’ upper cloud deck, around 60 kilometres (45 miles) from the surface.

Writing in Nature Astronomy, the team stressed the presence of phosphine did not prove the presence of life on Venus.

But, as the clouds swirling about its broiling surface are highly acidic and therefore destroy phosphine very quickly, the research did show that something was creating it anew.

The researchers conducted several modelling calculations in a bid to explain the new phosphine production.

ADVERTISEMENT

They concluded that their research provided evidence “for anomalous and unexplained chemistry” on Venus.

Lead author Jane Greaves, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy told AFP that the presence of phosphine alone was not proof of life on Earth’s next door neighbour.

“I don’t think we can say that — even if a planet was abundant in phosphorus, it might lack something else important to life — some other element, or conditions might be too hot, too dry,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Greaves added that it was the first time phosphine had been found on a rocky planet other than Earth.

The breakthrough was hailed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who tweeted, “it’s time to prioritize Venus.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Life on Venus? The discovery of phosphine, a byproduct of anaerobic biology, is the most significant development yet in building the case for life off Earth,” he wrote.

The bulk of current efforts to look for past extraterrestrial life focus on Mars, which is known to have once contained all the necessary ingredients to support carbon-based organisms.

The US and China recently sent rovers to the Red Planet, while the UAE sent an atmospheric probe.

ADVERTISEMENT

‘Exciting’

Reacting to the study, Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and Lead Scientist of The Royal Institution of Australia, said it while it was tempting to believe that the phosphine was produced by lifeforms, “we have to rule out all possible other non-biological means of producing it”.

He called the finding “one of the most exciting signs of the possible presence of life beyond Earth I have ever seen”.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which has conducted several fly-bys of Venus, called Monday’s research “intriguing”.

“As with an increasing number of planetary bodies, Venus is proving to be an exciting place of discovery, though it had not been a significant part of the search for life,” he tweeted.

ADVERTISEMENT

He added that the planet was the focus of two out of four of NASA’s next four candidate missions under its Discovery Program, as well as Europe’s proposed EnVision mission, in which NASA is a partner.

Venus, which rotates in the opposite direction to Earth and where a day lasts 243 times longer, is a subject of intense interest among astronomers.

It is so close and of such similar size to our home planet that some experts believe it serves as a warning of the dangers of runaway climate change.

Previous studies have unearthed tantalising clues suggesting Venus has active volcanoes, including signs of recent lava flows.

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

‘He told us to use his words against him’: Early AM protest outside Lindsey Graham’s home over RBG replacement

Published

on

"In the spirit of RBG, we will not allow a double standard in how our Congress deals with late-term Supreme Court appointments."

Taking Sen. Lindsey Graham up on his 2016 advice to use his words opposing the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland against him should a Supreme Court seat open in the final year of a Republican president's first term, a group of demonstrators gathered outside of the South Carolina Republican's Washington, D.C. residence early Monday morning demanding that he oppose the filling of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat until after the November election.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Lindsey Graham ‘is in danger of an upset’ loss: top elections forecaster

Published

on

Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) re-election campaign looks increasingly in peril, according to one of America's top elections forecasters.

The latest update from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics claims that Graham today "is in greater danger of an upset" than he was just weeks ago, which has led to a ratings change in Graham's race against Democratic rival Jamie Harrison from "likely R" to "leans R."

Among other things, the Center for Politics points to Harrison's gaudy fundraising numbers as too big to ignore.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

Trump openly admits he’s fast-tracking SCOTUS nominee to rule on ‘fake ballots’ during contested election

Published

on

President Donald Trump is openly admitting he's wasting no time, fast-tracking the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to help him during a contested election.

Speaking on "Fox & Friends," Trump on Monday said because of "fake ballots," he does not want a 4-4 Supreme Court ruling on the election, should there be one. There is zero evidence of fake ballots.

Trump suggests though he wants a confirmation vote before the elections, citing election disputes and his baseless claim of “fake ballots” being filled out. We don’t want a 4-4 tie at the court, he said

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE