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Venusian phosphine: a 'wow!' signal in chemistry?

Bains, William, Petkowski, Janusz J., Seager, Sara, Ranjan, Sukrit, Sousa-Silva, Clara, Rimmer, Paul B., Zhan, Zhuchang, Greaves, Jane S. ORCID: and Richards, Anita M. S. 2022. Venusian phosphine: a 'wow!' signal in chemistry? Phosphorus, Sulfur, and Silicon and the Related Elements 197 (5-6) , pp. 438-443. 10.1080/10426507.2021.1998051

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The potential detection of ppb levels phosphine (PH3) in the clouds of Venus through millimeter-wavelength astronomical observations is extremely surprising as PH3 is an unexpected component of an oxidized environment of Venus. A thorough analysis of potential sources suggests that no known process in the consensus model of Venus’ atmosphere or geology could produce PH3 at anywhere near the observed abundance. Therefore, if the presence of PH3 in Venus’ atmosphere is confirmed, it is highly likely to be the result of a process not previously considered plausible for Venusian conditions. The source of atmospheric PH3 could be unknown geo- or photochemistry, which would imply that the consensus on Venus’ chemistry is significantly incomplete. An even more extreme possibility is that strictly aerial microbial biosphere produces PH3. This paper summarizes the Venusian PH3 discovery and the scientific debate that arose since the original candidate detection one year ago.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Group
ISSN: 1042-6507
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 31 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 17 October 2021
Last Modified: 13 May 2023 19:13

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