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Discovery of Phosphine Gas in the Atmosphere of Venus

Discovery of Phosphine Gas in the Atmosphere of Venus

Context:

An international team of astronomers have discovered phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus and the possibility of the presence of lifeforms on the neighbouring planet.

Phosphine:

  • It is a colourless but smelly gas, is known to be made only by some species of bacteria that survive in the absence of oxygen.
  • It is produced in industrial processes.

Key findings:

  • A team of scientists have reported traces of phosphine in a concentration of approximately 20 parts per billion, thousands to millions of times more than what could be expected.
  • Scientists have discovered it in the presence of a chemical which is known to be produced only through a biological process, and not through any naturally occurring chemical process.
  • There are some other ways in which this chemical might be produced, for example, in the underbelly of volcanoes or meteorite activity, but that would have shown in much lower concentrations.

Significance:

  • This is the most credible evidence yet for the possibility of life on Venus. Scientists say it is more significant than the discovery of water on the Moon or Mars.
  • In the search for extraterrestrial life, this is the biggest finding.
  • The detection of phosphine had raised Venus “higher up on the ladder of interesting targets” where the possible presence of life-forms can be explored.
  • The finding can further ignite interest in space missions to Venus. Missions to Venus are not new. Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
  • ISRO is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future. 
  • All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life.

Life on Venus:

  • The temperature of Venus is too high, and its atmosphere is highly acidic, just two of the things that would make life impossible.
  • But Scientists suggested that this phosphine could be remnants from a time when Venus was a much more hospitable place.
  • This finding opens up many interesting possibilities. Scientists don’t know how long phosphine molecules survive. 

Venus:

  • it is also called Earth’s twin.
  • It is called the morning or an evening star, although it is not a star.
  • Venus has no moon or satellite of its own.
  • It rotates from east to west while the Earth rotates from west to east.
  • It takes 5,832 hours to complete a rotation.

Source: Indian Express