Venus, Phosphine, And The Possibility Of Life

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 12, 2023
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Venus, Phosphine, And The Possibility Of Life
Potential chemical pathways for the synthesis of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, and their derived production vs. destruction rate. There are stages where, for all possible pathways, the rate of destruction of phosphine exceeds its formation by many orders of magnitude, as shown in red/purple. As can be seen, there is no route to produce phosphine by these processes that can account for the amounts observed. From [58] where more details can be found. — astro-ph.EP

The search for life elsewhere in the universe is one of the central aims of science in the 21st century.

While most of this work is aimed at planets orbiting other stars, the search for life in our own Solar System is an important part of this endeavour. Venus is often thought to have too harsh an environment for life, but it may have been a more hospitable place in the distant past. If life evolved there in the past then the cloud decks of Venus are the only remaining niche where life as we know it might survive today.

The discovery of the molecule phosphine, PH3, in these clouds has reinvigorated research looking into the possibility of life in the clouds. In this review we examine the background to studies of the possibility of life on Venus, discuss the discovery of phosphine, review conflicting and confirming observations and analyses, and then look forward to future observations and space missions that will hopefully provide definitive answers as to the origin of phosphine on Venus and to the question of whether life might exist there.

David L. Clements

Comments: Invited review, accepted for publication in Contemporary Physics
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Biological Physics (; Biomolecules (q-bio.BM)
Cite as: arXiv:2301.05160 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2301.05160v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: David L. Clements
[v1] Thu, 12 Jan 2023 17:28:01 UTC (12,873 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) 🖖🏻