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TerryMcK

Possible life on Venus finally announced

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The Nature Astronomy paper has just been made available as open access.

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Only steady state chemistry considered seems where the loophole, if one is needed, might be found.

Regards Andrew 

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The conditions on Venus are very extreme though so we may be missing chemical pathways at this point.  It's fascinating either way because either potentially life exists on Venus (and we've been looking in the wrong place all the time, i.e. Mars) or we have excluded a gas that we could have detected on exoplanets and avoided a bit of a fubar.  There's also some other fascinating possibilities if correct in that Venus may have been more habitable in the early solar system and if an impact dispersed life from Venus to Earth then we'd all be Venusians!

Nevertheless expect space missions to be proposed in the boat load now to Venus (hopefully we didn't seed the planet with Venera or Pioneer!)

 

 

 

 

 

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I would be very surprised if every Planet/Moon in the solar system didn't have life and possibly all the asteroids and Sun too.

Alan

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1 hour ago, Whirlwind said:

The conditions on Venus are very extreme though so we may be missing chemical pathways at this point.  It's fascinating either way because either potentially life exists on Venus (and we've been looking in the wrong place all the time, i.e. Mars) or we have excluded a gas that we could have detected on exoplanets and avoided a bit of a fubar.  There's also some other fascinating possibilities if correct in that Venus may have been more habitable in the early solar system and if an impact dispersed life from Venus to Earth then we'd all be Venusians!

Nevertheless expect space missions to be proposed in the boat load now to Venus (hopefully we didn't seed the planet with Venera or Pioneer!)

Yes, my money is this being down to atmospheric chemistry rather than signalling life chemistry.  Extreme temperatures, pressures  and highly reactive atmospheric constituents are a recipe for some weird chemistry. I hope I’m wrong though. 

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7 minutes ago, Ouroboros said:

Yes, my money is this being down to atmospheric chemistry rather than signalling life chemistry.  Extreme temperatures, pressures  and highly reactive atmospheric constituents are a recipe for some weird chemistry. I hope I’m wrong though. 

Atmospheric chemistry seems much more plausible than microbes evolving to cope with the atmosphere.

Regards Andrew 

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1 hour ago, andrew s said:

Atmospheric chemistry seems much more plausible than microbes evolving to cope with the atmosphere.

Regards Andrew 

Life wouldnt have evolved to deal with current conditions. In the past Venus was Earth like and over time life would have evolved to deal with the changes on Venus and is potentially whete it is now living in the upper atmosphere.

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13 minutes ago, PaulM said:

Life wouldnt have evolved to deal with current conditions. In the past Venus was Earth like and over time life would have evolved to deal with the changes on Venus and is potentially whete it is now living in the upper atmosphere.

I  understand that life would not have initially evolved under the current conditions on Venus.  I am also aware of extreemophiles on earth. 

However, I stand by my post that microbes evolving (from an initial Earth like environment or similar)  to now live in the atmosphere  of Venus as a source of PH3 is less plausible (in my view) than inorganic chemistry doing it.

I have as much evidence for this view as for the opposing one.  

Regards Andrew 

 

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The Venus/phosphine discovery team has also written a "hypothesis article" on "The Venusian Lower Atmosphere Haze as a Depot for Desiccated Microbial Life: A Proposed Life Cycle for Persistence of the Venusian Aerial Biosphere".

It is available on ArXiv here (pdf link at top right of that page)

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It really is difficult to account for atmospheric chemistry producing PH3 at those levels, especially as it'll be oxidised pretty quickly (in an extremely oxidising environment with 85% H2SO4 floating around). But you can't exclude something unusual and non-biological. It'll prompt a lot of searching for answers and questioning of the original PH3 data (though it has been confirmed with two independent radiotelescopes, so seems robust)

Nevertheless, if life is eventually proven, it'll mean a Nobel Prize for Jane Greaves and a couple of the others, and it'll mean that life is widespread throughout the universe, so very exciting.

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Now read both papers. Well worth the effort. Clearly a technically challenging measurement but looks robust.

The hypothesis paper underlines how difficult any life would be in the Venusian atmosphere and while it proposes a life cycle it lacks any metabolic detail only pointing out where the equivalent earth processes won't work. No hint of why PH3 would be a product.

The initial paper is very circumspect in its conclusion on the source of PH3 and rightly so in my opinion.

If life does exist it will be a case of "It's life Jim but not as we know it".

Regards Andrew 

Edited by andrew s
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59 minutes ago, andrew s said:

The initial paper is very circumspect in its conclusion on the source of PH3 and rightly so in my opinion.

That was my reading too, Andrew.

Mind you, the speculation on biotic origin can't possibly harm the next grant application....

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Having Now watched S@N I’m slightly more optimistic that it might indicate life of some form is present and very impressed with the science they’ve done.  
Has is been considered whether life cross contaminated from earth to Venus?  

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14 minutes ago, Ouroboros said:

Having Now watched S@N I’m slightly more optimistic that it might indicate life of some form is present and very impressed with the science they’ve done.  
Has is been considered whether life cross contaminated from earth to Venus?  

Yes, look at the "hypothesis paper" @JeremyS linked to above. It's very readable by non experts.

Regards Andrew 

 

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The biochemist knew his stuff on the Sky At Night episode. However he should not give up his day job to become a musician!

Edited by TerryMcK
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12 minutes ago, TerryMcK said:

However he should not give up his day job to become a musician!

🥳 Well, I suppose it makes a change from the "stand up comedians" of science. 😎

I did casually wonder if Emily Drabek-Maunder might be related to:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_S._D._Maunder
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Walter_Maunder
I ponder histories of scientists sometimes. NO ONE mention the Solar Minimum! 😛

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6 hours ago, andrew s said:

 

If life does exist it will be a case of "It's life Jim but not as we know it".

Regards Andrew 

Once again, from just a simple soul, there's so much we dont know, or understand!

But, we are learning, if we just have enough time!

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On 14/09/2020 at 21:22, andrew s said:

Atmospheric chemistry seems much more plausible than microbes evolving to cope with the atmosphere.

Regards Andrew 

Difficulty is the amount of energy required.  Phosphine does exist in the atmospheres of both Jupiter and Saturn but they have a lot more energy to play with (in the atmosphere).  The bigger problem is we know very little about Venus and its processes.  We don't even know whether it is volcanically active today really (there are evidence of volcanoes but unclear whether it is really active).  There is also evidence that its surface is relatively young (lack of craters etc) so something has recently resurfaced Venus - I once read that it was postulated that Venus periodically goes through a surface melting process because the rock acts as an insulator and there is no evidence of plate tectonics.  As with any such discoveries they can be short lived as other reasons are discovered or researched so I would generally caution that it isn't until absolutely we can prove it is life.

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4 minutes ago, Whirlwind said:

Difficulty is the amount of energy required.  Phosphine does exist in the atmospheres of both Jupiter and Saturn but they have a lot more energy to play with (in the atmosphere).  The bigger problem is we know very little about Venus and its processes.  We don't even know whether it is volcanically active today really (there are evidence of volcanoes but unclear whether it is really active).  There is also evidence that its surface is relatively young (lack of craters etc) so something has recently resurfaced Venus - I once read that it was postulated that Venus periodically goes through a surface melting process because the rock acts as an insulator and there is no evidence of plate tectonics.  As with any such discoveries they can be short lived as other reasons are discovered or researched so I would generally caution that it isn't until absolutely we can prove it is life.

I agree lots of issues, however, there are just as many issues associated with how a microbe would work in a cloud which amounts to a small quantity of H2O dissolved in H2SO4. This would denature and earth style organism unless it had an impenetrable coating which poses the issue of how it gets nutrients etc or we are looking at an explanation based on unknown biochemistry.

It a challenge in either direction. 

Regards Andrew 

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Can't help but think that this news broke rather quietly maybe caught in the glare of more pressing concerns of the pandemic.  It would be ironic if life is eventually confirmed how it was first hinted at under the radar so to speak.  Certainly a story to follow. 

Jim 

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