Venus and life
Why in News?
- Scientists said they have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit Earth’s inhospitable neighbor, a tantalizing sign of potential life beyond Earth.
Details of the finding
- Scientists have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit Venus.
- Phosphine – a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached – is highly toxic to people.
- On Earth, phosphine is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments (anaerobic conditions). The international scientific team first spotted the phosphnie using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and confirmed it using the ALMA radio telescope in Chile.
- A radio telescope is a specialized antenna and radio receiver used to receive radio waves from astronomical radio sources in the sky.
- Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can be used in the daytime as well as at night.
- Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the sun.
- Venus is wrapped in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps in heat. Surface temperatures reach a scorching 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.
- European Space Agency’s mission, Venus Express, found signs of ozone, made of three oxygen atoms and considered a biomarker, in the upper atmosphere of Venus, in 2011
India’s mission to Venus
- Shukrayaan-1 is a proposed orbiter to Venus by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to study the surface and atmosphere of Venus using GSLV Mark III.
- The three broad research areas of interest for this mission include a) surface/subsurface features and re-surfacing processes; b) study the atmospheric chemistry, dynamics and compositional variations, and c) study the atmospheric interaction with solar radiation and solar wind.
- Shukrayaan-1 could confirm the presence of active volcanoes on Venus.