NASA detected hints of life on Venus in 1978, but didn’t realize it?

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If life existed on Venus, NASA would have first discovered it in 1978. However, the discovery has not been noticed for 42 years.

Venus life is still far. However, there are reasons to take this idea seriously. On September 14, a team of scientists made a bomb announcement in the journal. Natural astronomy: They used telescopes to detect phosphine, a toxic gas that has long been proposed as a sign of extraterrestrial microbial life in the upper part of the planet’s thick atmosphere. This detection has been a landmark for a long hunt to find life elsewhere. solar system, Mainly focused on Mars and several moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. Meanwhile, the hot and poisonous Venus was considered too unfriendly to survive for a long time. But now, by digging through archival NASA data, Rakesh Mogul, a biochemist at Cal Poly Pomona, California, and colleagues uncovered hints of phosphine collected by Pioneer 13, a probe that reached Venus in December 1978.

“time [Nature Astronomy paper] The legacy mass spectrum immediately came to mind. “Mogul told Live Science.

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Mogul and his co-authors have extensive knowledge of the data from the mission, he said. “So looking at the data again was a natural next step. So, after consulting with my co-authors, I checked the original scientific article and immediately started looking for phosphorus compounds.”

Found posted in arXiv The database, September 22, has not yet been peer reviewed, but has not told researchers beyond what is reported in Nature Astronomy. Phosphine ( sign Atom and three Hydrogen) Much more certain, they said. Data from 1978 were taken from the Large Probe Neutral Mass Spectrometer (LNMS), one of several instruments that descended into Venus’ atmosphere as part of the Pioneer 13 mission.

The image shows Pioneer 13’s large rover with LNMS breaking through Venus’ clouds. (Image source: NASA)

Pioneer 13 dropped a large rover (LNMS) into the clouds of Venus. The probe, suspended from a parachute, collected data and sent it back. Earth I plunged into the death of the robot. (Three smaller probes also dropped from the Pioneer 13 without a parachute.) LNMS sampled the atmosphere and passed the sample through. Mass spectrometry, Is a standard laboratory technique used to identify unknown chemicals. When scientists first explained LNMS results in the 1970s signInstead, a phosphine-like base compound that focuses on other chemicals.

When Mogul’s team reexamined LNMS data in Venus’ low and medium clouds (potentially habitable regions of the Earth), they found a signal very similar to phosphine, the researchers write. Scientists also atom It seems to come from a heavier gas like phosphine.

LNMS wasn’t made to hunt for phosphine-like compounds, and it would have had a hard time distinguishing gases from other molecules with similar masses. However, samples from Pioneer 13 had evidence of molecules present in gases with the same mass as phosphine, an amount consistent with the levels described in the Nature Astronomy paper.

“I have the evidence [trace chemicals that could be signatures of life] Mogul thought that data from legacy data couldn’t exist in the air, so it was somewhat discounted. “Now I think a lot of people are rethinking Venus as a fully oxidizing environment.” (“Full oxidizing environment”) “It does not contain phosphine or most other chemicals that appear to be signs of life.)

Mogul and his colleagues also found hints about other chemicals that shouldn’t occur naturally in Venus’ clouds. Goat, Oxygen And hydrogen peroxide.

“We believe this is a sign of a chemical that has not yet been discovered, and/or a potentially life-saving chemical,” they wrote.

What is needed is an ongoing exploration of Venus.

“We need a more sustainable approach to exploration like Mars,” Mogul said.

NASA and European, Indian and Russian space agencies have plans for a Venus probe that could help, he said.

“However, given Venus’ past, present and future habitability, long-term chemical and geological studies are needed to understand the source of potential chemicals. [anomalies] “It could come from an orbital probe, a probe suspended from a balloon in a cloud, and/or a thermally stable lander probe,” he said.

The phrase “heat resistant” is important given the planet’s habit of killing all robots landing on sizzling hot surfaces.

Originally published in Live Science.