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Thread: Phosphine in Venus's atmosphere: evidence of life or chemistry?

  1. #1 Phosphine in Venus's atmosphere: evidence of life or chemistry? 
    Forum Sophomore Peter Dow's Avatar
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    The BBC and reputable news agencies like Reuters are hyping claims that the detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus "could be" evidence of life on Venus.

    Are they right or don't they know their chemistry?

    P4(g) + 6H2O(g) + 6CO(g) → 4PH3(g) + 6CO2(g)


    Last edited by Peter Dow; September 15th, 2020 at 06:35 AM.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope
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    Some discussion over here,:

    https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/...omment=1152828

    MigL says Phosphine production is part of his job.

    He leans to it being possible ,if it is indeed Phosphine.

    It is / was a huge story on the BBC , but we need happy stories right now.


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    Forum Sophomore Peter Dow's Avatar
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    From Wikipedia - Phosphine - Possible extraterrestrial biosignature
    The Vega mission probe found rich reduction–oxidation chemistry between different phosphorus species and water at Venusian clouds, including phosphoric acid and Phosphorus trioxide anhydride P4O6.[22] Phosphorus trioxide anhydride P4O6 was found to be the major phosphorus species of clouds below 25km. Phosphorus trioxide anhydride can react with water[23] forming phosphorous acid which, at elevated temperature and under vacuum, disproportionates into phosphoric acid and phosphine.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosph...l_biosignature
    Which suggests the chemical reactions -

    P4O6 + 6 H2O → 4 H3PO3 → 3 H3PO4 + PH3

    Those reactions cited from -

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosph...cal_Properties

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosph...roportionation
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    Forum Sophomore Peter Dow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    It is / was a huge story on the BBC , but we need happy stories right now.
    "Now" as in during this pandemic? Do we scientists really need to be distracted by the media from the science that is most relevant to understanding, treating, curing and developing a vaccine for Covid-19?
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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Dow View Post
    "Now" as in during this pandemic? Do we scientists really need to be distracted by the media from the science that is most relevant to understanding, treating, curing and developing a vaccine for Covid-19?
    Right, because, as we all know, astronomers are in the forefronty of that endeavour.
    ("We scientists"? Shurely shome mishtake, since you, apparently, are in the group that has been "distracted" by this news instead of coming up with the Covid cure...1).


    1 I won't hold my breath for your contribution on that topic.
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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    Moderator Moderator Janus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Dow View Post
    The BBC and reputable news agencies like Reuters are hyping claims that the detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus "could be" evidence of life on Venus.

    Are they right or don't they know their chemistry?

    P4(g) + 6H2O(g) + 6CO(g) → 4PH3(g) + 6CO2(g)
    The major components of Venus' upper atmosphere are CO2 and nitrogen, Then sulfur dioxide at 150 parts per million. Water vapor is down the list at 20 ppm.
    The point is that more likely than not, phosphates and not phosphine should form.
    It isn't just the detection of the phosphine alone, it's the amount of phosphine found that raises questions. Its more than should be produced by the type of chemical reactions expected.
    The other point is that phosphine decomposes over time. So it can only stay in the atmosphere if it is produced as fast as it decomposes.
    So, something out of the ordinary would be needed to explain the levels found; some unknown process, either chemical, or possibly biological.
    "Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feelings for the strength of their argument.
    The heated mind resents the chill touch & relentless scrutiny of logic"-W.E. Gladstone


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