On Venus, the alleged phosphine may not be the same

On Venus, the alleged phosphine may not be the same

One study suggests that the phosphine found in Venus’ atmosphere may be just normal sulfur dioxide. Therefore, “the greatest scientific discovery in history” will still have to wait.

A team by mid-September Announced Phosphine was found in the upper atmosphere of Venus. The announcement made headlines. For good reason, we know that on our planet, these molecules are produced by anaerobic bacteria. Following this announcement, other studies question the reliability of this possible finding. One of them, led by the University of Washington in collaboration with NASA researchers, Concluding Not the so-called phosphine today.

A signal that sows confusion

Each chemical compound absorbs the unique wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. Astronomers analyze them to learn more about the chemical composition of an atmosphere. As part of the study, the first team was announced 266.94 GHz spectral signal detection in the atmosphere of Venus.

Another compound that is likely to exist on Venus is phosphine and sulfur dioxide, which absorb radio waves close to this frequency, so researchers are questioning.

To distinguish the two compounds, the team performed follow-up observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter / Sublimeter Array, or ALMA. Analysis of ALMA observations at frequencies suitable only for sulfur dioxide led the team to conclude The amount of sulfur dioxide in Venus is very low due to the detected signal. Therefore, it must be derived from phosphine.

As part of this new study, researchers began modeling the conditions in Venus’ atmosphere based on decades of observations. They used this basis to comprehensively interpret observed and overlooked features in alma mater data sets.

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Representation of the phosphine (PH3) / ESO / M molecule. Commissar / L. Caldada & NASA / JPL / Caltech

Common sulfur dioxide

The team used this model to mimic the signals of phosphine and sulfur dioxide at various levels in the atmosphere of Venus and to analyze how the alma takes these signals in their configurations. Based on the shape of the signal, the researchers first pointed out that the absorption was not from Venus’ cloud, as reported by the first team.

Instead, the observed signal It came from the mesosphere of Venus, about 80 km from the surface. However, at this altitude, harsh chemicals and ultraviolet radiation Phosphine destroys molecules within seconds In the opinion of researchers.

They also found that Alma had data The amount of sulfur dioxide in Venus’ atmosphere is significantly reduced. “The alignment of the alma mater’s antenna during the 2019 observation caused an unwanted side effect: sulfur dioxide in Venus’ atmosphere, signals from gases emitting signals.Alex Nicks of NASA’s JPL underscores. This phenomenon is called spectral line dilution.

In conclusion, sulfur dioxide not only explains the initial observations, but also says that these results are more consistent with what astronomers know about the planet’s atmosphere, including acid clouds. Sulfuric. Finally, remember that Venus is not the third most common chemical compound in the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide. Not considered a sign of life.

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