The Phosphene Controversy: Is it Phosphene? Is there life on Venus?

By Keith Cowing
April 6, 2021
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The Phosphene Controversy: Is it Phosphene? Is there life on Venus?

On 14th September 2020, the Royal Astronomical Society made an official statement coupled with a webminar on the discovery of phosphine on Venus.

Single-line millimetre-waveband spectral detections of phosphine (with a signal-to-noise ratio of ≈ 15σ) from the JCMT and ALMA telescopes indicated a phosphine abundance of 20 ppb (parts per billion), 1000 times more than that on the Earth. Phosphine is an important biomarker and immediate speculation in the media about indicators of life being found on Venus followed. This article presents an analysis of the study and the results on the observation of the spectral absorption feature of phosphine in the clouds of Venus, thus implying as a potential biosignature.

If phosphine is produced through biotic, as opposed to abiotic pathways, the discovery could imply a significant biomass in the Venusian atmosphere. The discovery led to a major controversy with criticism of the analysis and results and responses to it. The issue remains unresolved, leading to a fresh interest in the study of Venus including ground-based observations as well as space-probes that can answer these questions conclusively.

Priya Hasan

Comments: Published in Astrobiology Newsletter, 14(1), 4, 2021, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.13819.23847
Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2104.01932 [physics.pop-ph] (or arXiv:2104.01932v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)
Submission history
From: Priya Hasan
[v1] Fri, 2 Apr 2021 17:11:40 UTC (4,753 KB)

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) 🖖🏻