Astrobiological Potential of Venus Atmosphere Chemical Anomalies and Other Unexplained Cloud Properties

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
January 10, 2024
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Astrobiological Potential of Venus Atmosphere Chemical Anomalies and Other Unexplained Cloud Properties
Unexplained and unexplored Venus’ atmospheric observations. The molecule models show individual detections and altitudes for the atmospheric observations (e.g. NH3 has been tentatively observed three times, twice, at two different altitudes by Venera 8, at ~32 and ~45 km, and once by Pioneer Venus at ~51 km, see also Table 3). If the observation has been made at the altitude range the molecule model is placed at the highest altitude of the range (e.g. SF6 has been tentatively detected between 35 and 58 km). The SO2 and H2O molecule models do not represent every individual observation but rather denote the anomalous abundance profiles for SO2 and H2O in the atmosphere (see (Bains et al., 2021a; Rimmer et al., 2021) and Section 3.5). Most of the unexplained atmospheric observations have been recorded within the clouds (48-70 km) and in the stagnant haze layer below the clouds (31-47 km). — astro-ph.EP

Long-standing unexplained Venus atmosphere observations and chemical anomalies point to unknown chemistry but also leave room for the possibility of life.

The unexplained observations include several gases out of thermodynamic equilibrium (e.g. tens of ppm O2, the possible presence of PH3 and NH3, SO2 and H2O vertical abundance profiles), an unknown composition of large, lower cloud particles, and the “unknown absorber(s)”.

Here we first review relevant properties of the Venus atmosphere and then describe the atmospheric chemical anomalies and how they motivate future astrobiology missions to Venus.

Janusz J. Petkowski, Sara Seager, David H. Grinspoon, William Bains, Sukrit Ranjan, Paul B. Rimmer, Weston P. Buchanan, Rachana Agrawal, Rakesh Mogul, Christopher E. Carr

Comments: Published in Astrobiology (in press); Partially based on the text of the Venus Life Finder Mission Study report (arXiv:2112.05153)
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2401.04708 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2401.04708v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Janusz Petkowski
[v1] Tue, 9 Jan 2024 18:18:44 UTC (953 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) 🖖🏻