On the Robustness of Phosphine Signatures in Venus' Clouds

By Keith Cowing
December 10, 2020
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On the Robustness of Phosphine Signatures in Venus' Clouds

We published spectra of phosphine molecules in Venus’ clouds, following open-science principles in releasing data and scripts (with community input leading to ALMA re-processing, now benefiting multiple projects).

Some misconceptions about de-trending of spectral baselines have also emerged, which we address here. Using the JCMT PH3-discovery data, we show that mathematically-correct polynomial fitting of periodic ripples does not lead to “fake lines” (probability < ~1%). We then show that the ripples can be characterised in a non-subjective manner via Fourier transforms. A 20 ppb PH3 feature is ~5{\sigma} compared to the JCMT baseline-uncertainty, and is distinctive as a narrow perturber of the periodic ripple pattern. The structure of the FT-derived baseline also shows that polynomial fitting, if unguided, can amplify artefacts and so artificially reduce significance of real lines. Jane S. Greaves, William Bains, Janusz J. Petkowski, Sara Seager, Clara Sousa-Silva, Sukrit Ranjan, David L. Clements, Paul B. Rimmer, Helen J. Fraser, Steve Mairs, Malcolm J. Currie Comments: Response to: Snellen I. et al. Astron. Astroph., in press, arXiv:2010:09761 (2020); Villanueva G. et al. Nat. Ast. Matters Arising; arXiv:2010.14305 (2020); Thompson M. Mon. Not. Roy. Astron. Soc., in press, arXiv:2010.15118 (2020); Submitted to Nature Astronomy “Matters Arising” on Dec/10/2020
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2012.05844 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2012.05844v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Janusz Petkowski
[v1] Thu, 10 Dec 2020 17:36:56 UTC (428 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻