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Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Phosphine Shrouded in Mystery Above the Clouds of Venus
October 9 @ 2:30 pm
Dereck Lizotte MSc Candidate,
Department of Physics and Astronomy
It was recently proposed in Sousa-Silva et al. (2020) that any phosphine discovered on a terrestrial planet is a promising sign of life, due to terrestrial conditions making it such that no known abiotic process leads to its production. In fact, its continued presence on Earth is solely linked to microbial life. The idea of an unambiguous biosignature is very attractive and its detection in Venus’s upper atmosphere has certainly been the subject of much recent debate. However, Venus’s unique characteristics of a thick, acidic lower atmosphere and the consequent greenhouse effect leading to high surface temperatures, mean that abiotic processes, yet unknown to us, could somehow be producing this phosphine. We will explore the confirmation of the phosphine gas signal in the upper cloud layers of Venus (from Greaves et al, 2020), as well as why no known abiotic sources can produce the detected abundance of phosphine (from the companion paper; Bains et al, 2020). Lastly, we will also explore what this detection could mean for the possibility of life on Venus and how it ties in to theories previously proposed by Morowitz and Sagan (1967).
If you’re interested in joining in this seminar, please contact Nancy Robichaud at email@example.com to obtain the zoom link.