Is There Life on Venus? RAS Finds Phosphine

  • There is a lot of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, whose molecules could be seen from a very far distance.
  • Phosphine can be obtained artificially, but in natural conditions, anaerobic organisms use phosphine.
  • There is a huge possibility other species do inhibit Venus, hence there is life there.

A press conference was held by the Royal Astronomical Society on Monday. The announcement is pertaining to a very significant finding related to the signs of extraterrestrial life that have been discovered on Venus. The findings are based on the discovery of phosphine gas.

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) is a learned society and charity that encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.[2] Its headquarters are in Burlington House, on Piccadilly in London.

A large amount of phosphine gas was spotted by astronomers at the University of Manchester, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Cardiff University, which observed the second planet from the Sun. They were working in two independent observatories, with the ALMA radio telescope in Chile and the James Clerk Maxwell infrared telescope in Hawaii.

Phosphine is the compound with the chemical formula PH₃. It is a colorless, flammable, toxic gas and is classed as a pnictogen hydride. Pure phosphine is odorless, but technical grade samples have a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish, due to the presence of substituted phosphine and diphosphane.

Despite the harsh conditions on the surface, the atmospheric pressure and temperature at about 50 km to 65 km above the surface of the planet is nearly the same as that of the Earth, making its upper atmosphere the most Earth-like area in the Solar System, even more so than the surface of Mars.

There is a lot of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, whose molecules could be seen from a very far distance. According to astronomers, there is so much gas that it could not be synthesized by itself. At least, they do not know such a natural process. Therefore, phosphine has a biological origin, and it is a so-called biosignature— a manifestation of the consequences of life.

Phosphine can be obtained artificially, but in natural conditions, anaerobic organisms use phosphine. That is, some living creatures— most likely bacteria that do not need oxygen for life. Of course, anaerobic bacteria are not what we want to see outside the Earth. However, before them, nothing was found anywhere at all. The idea that our planet is the only habitable place in the Universe was quite reasonable.

Russian and Soviet scientist Leonid Ksanfomality, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, displayed pictures taken by Soviet spacecraft that visited the surface of Venus. He apparently showed plants and creatures living on the surface of the planet, and followed up his purported observations in an interview in 2012.

His observations, however, were proven false that year. Ksanfomality died last year at 88, shortly after he published his sensational work entitled “Hypothetical signs of life on the planet Venus: a revision of the results of television experiments in 1975-1982.”

Overall, there is a huge possibility other species do inhibit Venus, hence there is life there. However, it is premature to speculate on type of species. It is a huge exciting announcement and it would be even more spectacular in the memory of Leonid Ksanfomaliti to prove his work to be correct.

Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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