For decades, we thought of Venus as a completely uninhabitable planet because of the hellish environment on its surface. Yet, several scientists have championed the idea that life could exist in the thick cloud decks that shroud the planet.
Several weeks ago, a team of astronomers reported the detection of phosphine on Venus. If this stinky, toxic, perhaps biogenic gas does exist on Venus as reported, we stand to learn something profound. If clever chemists succeed in identifying a nonbiological source that produces phosphine, we will learn about the limitations of using atmospheric biosignatures to infer life. If they fail, this discovery increases our already high motivation to go to Venus and study its atmosphere in situ with 21st-century instruments.
To discuss this amazing discovery and its consequences for the search for life beyond Earth, we invited two astronomers: Clara Sousa-Silva, co-author of the study about phosphine on Venus and David Grinspoon, astrobiologist and member of the SETI Institute’s Science Advisory Board, and is part of the Breakthrough Initiative and co-investigator on multiple proposed missions to search for primitive life in the clouds of Venus.
The speakers will discuss whether or not phosphine detected on the planet next door is a signature of alien biology and how we might one day send a space probe to find out.
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