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Alien life indicator found

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http://news.sky.com/story/signs-of-alien-life-detected-on-venus-12071625

"Scientists have discovered a rare molecule in the clouds of Venus, which suggests colonies of living microbes could be thriving in the oxygen-free environment high in the planet's atmosphere"

Amazing discovery.   

😀😀😀

TWS

Post edited at 17:49
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In reply to The Wild Scallion:

From the BBC news website ( https//www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-54133538 )

"Through my whole career I have been interested in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe, so I'm just blown away that this is even possible," Prof Greaves said. "But, yes, we are genuinely encouraging other people to tell us what we might have missed. Our paper and data are open access; this is how science works."

Sky at night, BBC4 10.30pm tonight.

T.

Post edited at 18:03
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 Agar Jelly 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Indeed! If basic life is abundant on our closest neighbour - with it's hostile climate and acidic atmosphere it's likely all over the flipping place!

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In reply to Agar Jelly:

> Indeed! If basic life is abundant on our closest neighbour - with it's hostile climate and acidic atmosphere it's likely all over the flipping place!

Oh most definitely.  It will be all over the place.  

Post edited at 18:14
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In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Venus and the crescent Moon this morning was totally ace. 

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 Agar Jelly 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

If you'll indulge me briefly. Here's a rock on Mars that resembles a Marmot.


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In reply to Agar Jelly:

That's not a Marmot!!

That's a far away lion!!!

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In reply to Agar Jelly:

> If basic life is abundant on our closest neighbour 

It's still an 'If'; and abundance hasn't been mentioned.

I'm greatly encouraged by the 'this is how science works' quote I posted earlier. A note of caution that might easily have been drowned in what is certain to be an over-played media reaction.

T.

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 wintertree 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

On that note, Jupiter and Saturn are both naked eye visible around dusk at the moment quite close together on the horizon.

It'd be amazing if life is found on Venus, it would certainly give those who think earth must be truly exceptional a pause for thought.  Critical question if it's found - is it common with life on Earth?  Did both come in on Martian meteorites?

Post edited at 18:52
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 Agar Jelly 14 Sep 2020
In reply to wintertree:

Extremophiles hitching a lift on comets is my guess. Panspermia. The double stranded helix DNA will be awash in the Milky Way.

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 Lankyman 14 Sep 2020
In reply to bouldery bits:

> That's not a Marmot!!

> That's a far away lion!!!


Don't be daft. Mars's thin atmosphere is notorious for distorting distances.
It's a small cat close up.

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 mack 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

American werewolf on Mars.

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 cb294 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Proof of extracellular life would be ultra cool. I actually start my cell biology class by asking the students what they expect to be the biggest thing in biology they hope to experience in their future career. Extraterrestial life would be high on my list! Also, thinking about this topic helps defining what we mean by "life".

However, were are not there by a long way.

What they have found is phosphine, a compound that is unstable under what we know of the Venus atmosphere.

If it accumulates to reasonable levels it must therefore be constantly replenished.

Again, what we know about Venus geology suggests that volcanoes etc. can make some phosphine, but not enough to let it accumulate to the observed levels.

So, if you have excluded the other explanations, some kind of biological process is all that is left.

Anyway, since we do not have the bacteria under the microscope or in culture, this is only the starting point to look hard for any flaws in the model, and possibly to devise a new mission to Venus to specifically look for the critters (and to get a better handle on the phosphine turnover).

For me, there are several obvious questions:

First, measurement. How sure are we that the phosphine signal is real and quantitatively correct (numbers are important here!). This needs confirming with a completely independent methodology, ideally with direct sampling.

Second, chemistry and Venus meteorology: Are we sure about the kinetics of phosphine decay? Are there mechanisms on Venus that would slow down its decay relative to what we expect from Earth?

Third, production: Are we sure that we understand geochemical processes well enough to exclude that Venus volcanoes or whatever produce as little phosphine as predicted?

There most be ten thousand much more detailed points immediately obvious to specialists, but clearly, extraordinary claims need extraordinary levels of proof.

I find the the hypothesis of bacteria floating in acid clouds exciting, who says that life needs to follow the pattern on earth. So, high priority for funding a new Venus mission specifically looking for these beasts, unless someone comes up with an idea to debunk this story beforehand.....

edit: phosphine is a surprising trace molecule. My bet would have been on molecular oxygen, something so reactive it immediately disappears when not replenished, but could accumulate to much higher levels in the atmosphere. Earth must scream "life!" to all alien spectroscopists!

Post edited at 20:15
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 wintertree 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

> Extremophiles hitching a lift on comets is my guess. Panspermia. The double stranded helix DNA will be awash in the Milky Way.

It doesn't have to be an extremophile to survive the vacuum of space - an extremophile lives in an extreme environment.  Plenty off other stuff that lives in a more normal environment can suspend in space-like conditions and resume life and reproduction later.  

A couple of years ago I got to handle a prototype wafer-sat from Breakthrough Starshot (minus the plutonium battery seeing as it travelled in cary-on luggage...)  There's certainly some interest in the possibility of seeding directed interstellar panspermia with them.  I'm not sure the authors of the Outer Space Treaty saw that one coming.

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 DancingOnRock 14 Sep 2020
In reply to cb294:

I’m trying to find a video I watched a few months ago about finding exoplanets and looking for specific gasses as indicators. I can’t remember if phosphine was one, I suspect it was. The question is; if they’ve been looking for it on exoplanets, why have they only just found it on Venus. Surely we’d check all the solar system first. 
 

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In reply to cb294:

> Second, chemistry and Venus meteorology: Are we sure about the kinetics of phosphine decay? Are there mechanisms on Venus that would slow down its decay relative to what we expect from Earth?

I'm pretty sure someone on R4 this evening said that phosphine escapes from the Venusian atmosphere into space.  Unless the gravity on Venus is lot less than I thought, that can't be right can it?  It's much bigger than ammonia and that's too heavy to escape from our atmosphere.

Here's the paper, anyway.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1174-4

Post edited at 22:31
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 wintertree 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Different pressure and temperature.  Everything escapes the atmosphere of any planet with a gas atmosphere thermalised to a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of atomic or molecular speeds; it’s just a question of rates...

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 Flinticus 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Probably make Coronavirus look like a sneeze once they get to Earth!

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 Eric9Points 14 Sep 2020
In reply to cb294:

> edit: phosphine is a surprising trace molecule. My bet would have been on molecular oxygen, something so reactive it immediately disappears when not replenished, but could accumulate to much higher levels in the atmosphere. Earth must scream "life!" to all alien spectroscopists!

An interesting thought. If we have been noticed by some clever aliens I guess we might get a greeting. In maybe a hundred million years.

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In reply to The Wild Scallion:

I always find professor David Kipping's channel a good watch .  From Columbia university.

He's got a very listenable voice too.

Here's his first take on it and the environment of the upper atmosphere of Venus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNLsgd_NzWk&

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In reply to The Wild Scallion:

It was so exciting to talk about this with the kids at dinner tonight.  Finally something that's bigger than coronavirus (caveat, caveat, caveat).  Even if it turns out to not be space bacteria it's lovely to look outwards for a change.

I wonder what my seven year old's teacher will make of his take on it tomorrow : )

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 wintertree 14 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

You might enjoy this short film...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YH3c1QZzRK4

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 SenzuBean 15 Sep 2020
In reply to cb294:

I just want to add - great post, and what you mention here is a definite possibility. This exact thing happened very recently with the explanation for rust on the moon:

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2020/09/rust-on-the-moon/

 

Post edited at 04:58
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 tomsan91 15 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Great episode of the sky at night was on yesterday evening.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000mmjk/the-sky-at-night-life-on-venus

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 graeme jackson 15 Sep 2020
In reply to tomsan91:

> Great episode of the sky at night was on yesterday 

They're always great if Maggie is on. (not saying I have a 'thing' for her but she often looks pretty foxy in her leather bodice thingy )

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 TomD89 15 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

To be pedantic, isn't what they've found actually evidence that potentially indicates phosphine which in turn potentially indicates bacterial microbes? To discover either of these would require physical sampling no? 

Yes you can speculate and say 'phosphine on Earth results from process X' but that doesn't automatically lead to 'phosphine on Venus results from processs X'. The nature article linked by Dave Garnet reads very differently to the news media level, attention grabbing headline. Still interesting but don't get carried away.

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 ianstevens 15 Sep 2020
In reply to TomD89:

> To be pedantic, isn't what they've found actually evidence that potentially indicates phosphine which in turn potentially indicates bacterial microbes? To discover either of these would require physical sampling no? 

> Yes you can speculate and say 'phosphine on Earth results from process X' but that doesn't automatically lead to 'phosphine on Venus results from processs X'. The nature article linked by Dave Garnet reads very differently to the news media level, attention grabbing headline. Still interesting but don't get carried away.

Basically true for every media science report of a "big discovery". Always read the paper!

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 Lankyman 15 Sep 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> You might enjoy this short film...


Nice film. I always think the reality of space exploration will be a lot more mundane eg getting grit in your undies in a Martian sandstorm or trying to have a dump in a spacesuit.

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 cb294 15 Sep 2020
In reply to TomD89:

> ... To discover either of these would require physical sampling no? 

Bacteria can probably only be studied by direct sampling. Trace elements and molecules are usually identified at distance using spectroscopy, based on characteristic patterns of either emission (specific lines present in the light emananting from some source) or absorption (lightof specific wavelengths blocked in light passing though some object, e.g. the Venus atmosphere.

In fact, historically elements like Helium (hence the name!) were first discovered as being present in the sun based on their spectroscopic signature in the sunlight, years before being discovered also on Earth.

Spectroscopy has made huge progress since then, and is now even able to detect trace amounts of complex molecules. Quantitatively measuring local concentrations is trivial in the lab, but still a tricky part of remote sensing (you cannot simply put a bunch of other planets there with calibrated phosphine levels...).

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 wercat 15 Sep 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

> Extremophiles hitching a lift on comets is my guess. Panspermia. The double stranded helix DNA will be awash in the Milky Way.


MARK MY WORDS

the imprint of DNA will be found eventually in the afterglow of creation, the CMB!  What an awsome day that will be.  There will be a serial number and COSHH information on it

The Big bang was it escaping from a cosmic lab into the wild, possibly from the Great Green Arkleseizure

ps have you ever heard of Agar, Son of Athar?

Post edited at 18:24
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In reply to Agar Jelly:

> Panspermia

Panspermia always seems a cop out to me, moving the 'magic' bit to some extraterrestrial origin. You still have to determine how life originated from basic organic chemistry, wherever it originated.

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In reply to wercat:

> Agar, Son of Athar?

"One man shall save the realm, six shall he gather..."?  

Post edited at 19:25
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In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Did anyone else wonder if the various probes we have sent to Venus seeded the atmosphere with a terrestrial organism that happens to like the Venusian upper atmosphere...? There are still archaebacteria on Earth dating back to when sulphur was the basis of biological energy...

Post edited at 19:28
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In reply to captain paranoia:

> Did anyone else wonder if the various probes we have sent to Venus seeded the atmosphere with a terrestrial organism that happens to like the Venusian upper atmosphere...? There are still archaebacteria on Earth dating back to when sulphur was the basis of biological energy...

It occurred to me yes.  

Would need to be ruled out of course.  

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 ian caton 15 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

Would mean we are the wrong side of the Great Filter. 

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 Agar Jelly 15 Sep 2020
In reply to captain paranoia:

> Panspermia always seems a cop out to me, moving the 'magic' bit to some extraterrestrial origin. You still have to determine how life originated from basic organic chemistry, wherever it originated.

Life originating on Earth is the cop out philosophy. Sure, we have the environmental conditions to harbour life here but for DNA to pop into existence when there must be far more suitable cosmic soups out there in near infinite space and time above our heads?

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In reply to Agar Jelly:

You seem to be missing my point; we have to figure out that step from organic chemistry to life. Wherever it started. Panspermia doesn't address that step.

I doubt Earth is unique in all the universe. I suspect it will have occurred many times. I would just like someone to figure out how.

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 Agar Jelly 15 Sep 2020
In reply to captain paranoia:

Perhaps organic complexity is inevitable - given enough time and the right ingredients. Just like Brexit, life could be Oven Ready. I think it's earth-centric to assume the best conditions for a self replication occurred here first. I'm speaking well above my paygrade of course. there's just MORE out there than there is DOWN here. That's OBS innit?

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 DancingOnRock 19 Sep 2020
In reply to The Wild Scallion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osSf-Ho8mj8&
 

Anton Petrov latest podcast. He references his previous video a few months ago about the search for Phosphine. 

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 im off 19 Sep 2020
In reply to Lankyman:

Ask father ted.....he'll know.

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 Sean Kelly 19 Sep 2020
In reply to tomsan91:

Yes, I didn't know it was on, but one of the more ground-breaking topics they have covered. It was all so very understated but could be an epoke making edition of the SatN programme.

Enough to make me want to enthuse about it over the breakfast table this morning.

So we are not alone...

Post edited at 20:20
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