If there is phosphine on Venus, there isn't much.

 

This composite, false-color view of Venus’s atmosphere was produced using images collected by the Mariner 10 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public Domain, space,space science,phosphine,Venus,nasa,mars,Scientists ,atmosphere , Earth,
This composite, false-color view of Venus’s atmosphere was produced using images collected by the Mariner 10 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public Domain

Scientists often concentrate on looking for biosignatures, which are chemical by-products of life that may be found through remote sensing, in the absence of direct discoveries of alien life. Other solar system planets with atmospheres have also been researched, while Mars has garnered the majority of interest in this area.

Planetary scientists announced in 2021 that they had discovered phosphine gas in Venus' atmosphere using ground-based radio monitoring. Initially stated to be 20 parts per billion, the gas concentration was eventually lowered to seven or less parts per billion on the basis of better calibration and data analysis. Researchers are looking into whether the gas, which is connected to biological activities on Earth, may be used as a marker for the presence of life on other worlds.

Due to issues with data calibration and interpretation of the ground-based observational data, the alleged phosphine discovery has been viewed with suspicion. Additional ground- and space-based observatory searches for phosphine in Venus' atmosphere have similarly yielded no conclusive results. Another set of observations from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a unique observational platform, have been submitted by Cordiner et al (SOFIA).

The SOFIA aircraft travels at a height of 13 kilometers, above most of the Earth's atmosphere, considerably decreasing interference from terrestrial sources in the phosphine signal. The far-infrared spectroscopic data were gathered from 75-110 kilometers above Venus's surface using SOFIA's German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) instrument, which has a very high spectral resolution. This altitude range is very close to that determined by the earlier study.

The researchers indicate that no phosphine was clearly detected in the data obtained by GREAT during three observation flights. The new measurements point to an upper limit of 0.8 parts per billion for phosphine's concentration in Venus' atmosphere, assuming that it is there at all and that the abundance is consistent through time. For the whole Earth-facing hemisphere of Venus, this amount is the strictest upper limit that has been stated to date.

For planetary scientists, Venus' complex atmosphere still has many unsolved details. The Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which NASA plans to launch in the early 2030s, may bring about the next major scientific advance.

The work is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Also Read: James Webb telescope produces an unparalleled view of the ghostly light in galaxy clusters.


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