The discovery of the molecule called phosphine, created by microbes, positions the planet Venus as a potential scene of life. The opinion of three astronomers consulted by Infobae
By Agustina D´AmbraSeptember 14, 2020 Share on FacebookShare Share on TwitterTweet Share on WhatsAppShare
It is the first time that phosphine (or phosphane) has been found in one of the four telluric planets of the Solar System, “outside the Earth” REUTERS / Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A group of astronomers discovered a strange molecule created by microbes in the clouds of Venus, pointing to a hint of life , the European Southern Observatory (ESO) revealed on Monday.
The researchers found the “apparent presence” in the cloud layers of Venus of phosphine, a gas existing on Earth , and its origin could be due to an unknown phenomenon or a form of life, according to a study published in Nature Astronomy.
But what does this finding mean? According to Constantino Baikouzis, astronomical researcher and director of the La Matanza Astronomical Park Program, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the most striking thing about this study is that they put the magnifying glass on Venus: “What we know so far is that the atmosphere of this planet has sulfurous acid and its temperatures are very high, that is why it was never considered as a potential setting for life. This finding revealed that there are layers of phosphine, which leads us to think that they could be generated by a process from a living organism ”.
And it is that to produce phosphine, terrestrial bacteria take phosphate from minerals or biological material and add hydrogen.
“From this discovery, we will have to focus on seeing if this gas can be generated in a way that does not involve a living organism. That is, we would have to see if it can be generated without a living being behind it. It is shocking and exciting, but you could not say that there is life, more evidence is needed , ”explained Baikouzis.
A group of astronomers discovered a strange molecule created by microbes in the clouds of Venus, pointing to a hint of life, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) revealed on Monday.
Venus is the closest planetary neighbor to Earth. Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the Sun. Earth is the third. Venus is shrouded in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps heat. Surface temperatures reach 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.
In this sense, according to the lawyer Mariano Ribas, head of Scientific Dissemination of the Planetarium of the City of Buenos Aires, Galileo Galilei, the discovery of the planet Venus is a very curious novelty: “ It is striking that it is presented as a potential scenario for the life ”.
It is the first time that phosphine (or phosphane) has been found on one of the four telluric planets in the Solar System, “on the fringes of Earth,” said Jane S. Greaves, a professor of astronomy at Cardiff University, who led the study. . “When we got the first hints of phosphine in the spectrum of Venus, it was a shock ,” the astronomer added, quoted in a statement.
This artistic illustration shows the surface and atmosphere of Venus, as well as phosphine molecules. These molecules float in the windswept clouds of Venus at altitudes of 55 to 80 km, absorbing some of the millimeter waves that occur at lower altitudes. They were detected in the high clouds of Venus in data from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Telescope in the Atacama Desert, in which ESO is a partner. (ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calcada via REUTERS)
“First of all it is important to note that the study is not confirming the existence of life on Venus. What happens is that of course it has a huge impact on whether we can ever discover life. In recent years, they have worked hard on planets like Mars, but they never had their eyes set on Venus, ” Diego Bagú , director of the Planetarium of the National University of La Plata, told Infobae .
“It was not one of the favorite settings, unlike Mars, the moon of Saturn or the moon of Jupiter, which is called Europa. Both moons are covered with ice and underneath that ice, liquid water. And when there is water, in some way, obviously when we try to look for a trace of life we are looking for water. That is why it is so novel that a study on Venus is carried out ” , assured Bagú.
In this way, the specialist explained that the research was carried out thanks to two radiotelecoscopes: “It is not yet known whether this phosphine is produced by the existence of life or by a completely different process. It is for this reason that we could not directly relate the existence of life with phosphine ”.
What should be done to confirm the existence of life on Venus? “There are two very important steps to follow: check that phosphine exists and, after that, check that it is due to the existence of microorganisms. Of course it is very interesting because they are all clues that could indicate that there is life on Venus ”, emphasized Bagú.
I KEEP READING