Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Research into Search for Primitive Life in Clouds of Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SAN FRANCISCO (Breakthrough Initiatives PR)  – Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Venus Phosphine Detection Fact Sheet

Artist’s impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks. (Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calçada & NASA / JPL / Caltech)

Royal Astronomical Society
Fact Sheet

On 14 September 2020, astronomers announced the detection of phosphine, a potential biomarker, in the atmosphere of Venus. Here are ten essential facts about the discovery:

What has been discovered?

A molecule called phosphine has been detected in the atmosphere of the planet Venus.

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Scientists Find Hints of Life on Venus

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

CARDIFF, Wales (Cardiff University PR) — An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes – floating free of the scorching surface, but still needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial ‘aerial’ life. The new discovery is described in a paper in Nature Astronomy.

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