Readers ask about life on Venus and high-energy cosmic rays

Venusian recollection

Phosphine fuel detected within the clouds of Venus might be an indication of life or some unusual unknown chemistry, Lisa Grossman reported in “Potential signal of life is discovered on Venus” (SN: 10/10/20 & 10/24/20, p. 6).

The story introduced again recollections for reader Bruce Hapke, a professor of planetary science on the College of Pittsburgh.

“In 1975, my colleague Robert M. Nelson and I printed the primary high-quality, broadband spectrum of the clouds of Venus … which we obtained utilizing the 106-inch telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas,” Hapke wrote. “This spectrum turned out to be equivalent to that of a type of elemental sulfur, and we instructed that tiny particles of sulfur within the clouds are chargeable for their yellowish shade. The sulfur comes from volcanic eruptions.”

By then, “Russia had launched a number of unmanned spacecraft that had efficiently landed on the floor of Venus. Within the paper, we identified that these spacecraft had not been sterilized and possibly had been badly contaminated with microscopic, single-cell types of life, which the landers would then shed as they parachuted down by means of the clouds,” Hapke wrote. “We additionally identified that many kinds of microbes are extraordinarily hardy and may readily survive the vacuum of area by going dormant till they’re in a hospitable setting. Many can stay in sulfuric acid. On Earth they’re present in acid drainage from coal mines. Many are anaerobic and don’t require oxygen. As a substitute they generate vitality for his or her metabolism by chemically altering … sulfur that they ingest. E­ssentially, they survive by consuming sulfur,” he wrote. “If life does exist within the Venus clouds, it’s extremely prone to encompass immigrants from Earth.”

Different analysis teams have been questioning the phosphine detection (SN: 11/21/20, p. 16). “Based mostly on reanalyses of the information, a type of teams suggests the phosphine sign truly was sulfur dioxide. That will imply there’s no purpose to get enthusiastic about attainable life indicators — a minimum of not but,” Grossman says. The idea that microbes can journey from planet to planet, both by hitching a experience on spacecraft or by another means, is gaining traction amongst some scientists. Current proof suggests some Earth microbes are hardy sufficient to make such journeys (SN: 9/26/20, p. 10).

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Cosmic connections

Magnetized corpses of stars might be a source of quick radio bursts and high-energy neutrinos, Lisa Grossman reported in “Magnetars may resolve twin thriller” (SN: 10/10/20 & 10/24/20, p. 8).

Reader James Ash questioned how neutrinos work together with one other mysterious phenomenon: high-energy cosmic rays.

Neutrinos are practically massless s­ubatomic particles with no electrical cost. Which means they not often work together with regular matter, together with cosmic rays — a sort of charged particle with mass, Grossman says. However the two are linked, produced in tandem by energetic celestial objects. Just like how magnetars may produce each quick radio bursts and high-energy neutrinos, proof suggests vivid galaxies referred to as blazars eject each high-energy cosmic rays and high-energy neutrinos (SN: 8/4/18, p. 6).

Editor’s notice

On October 29, Scientific Stories retracted the research described in “M­outhbrooder lives within the deep” (SN: 4/11/20, p. 12) on the researchers’ request. Eggs discovered within the mouth of a deep-sea fish species, Parazen pacificus, belonged to a species of crab — not the fish, a reanalysis of the eggs confirmed. Although P. pacificus seems to own traits that recommend it may home fertilized eggs and maybe hatchlings within the mouth, “the unique knowledge shouldn’t be ample to substantiate that this species is a mouthbrooder,” ichthyologist Randy Singer of the College of Michigan in Ann Arbor and colleagues wrote within the retraction.

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