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Scientists find gas on Venus that could signal presence of life beyond Earth – FRANCE 24 English

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Issued on: 15/09/2020 – 03:10

The atmosphere of Venus contains traces of phosphine gas — which on Earth can be attributed to living organisms — scientists said on Monday, in a fresh insight into conditions on our nearest planetary neighbour.  

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Conditions on Venus are often described as hellish with daytime temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide. 

A team of experts used telescopes in Hawaii and Chile’s Atacama Desert to observe Venus’ upper cloud deck, around 60 kilometres (45 miles) from the surface.

They detected traces of phosphine, a flammable gas that on Earth often occurs from the breakdown of organic matter.

Writing in Nature Astronomy, the team stressed the presence of phosphine did not prove the presence of life on Venus.

However, as the clouds swirling about its broiling surface are highly acidic and therefore destroy phosphine very quickly, the research did show that something was creating it anew.

The researchers conducted several modelling calculations in a bid to explain the new phosphine production.

They concluded that their research provided evidence “for anomalous and unexplained chemistry” on Venus.

Lead author Jane Greaves, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy told AFP that the presence of phosphine alone was not proof of life on Earth’s nextdoor neighbour.

“I don’t think we can say that — even if a planet was abundant in phosphorus, it might lack something else important to life — some other element, or conditions might be too hot, too dry,” she said. 

Greaves added that it was the first time phosphine had been found on a rocky planet other than Earth.

‘Exciting’ 

Reacting to the study, Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and Lead Scientist of The Royal Institution of Australia, said it while it was tempting to believe that the phosphine was produced by lifeforms, “we have to rule out all possible other non-biological means of producing it”.

He called the finding “one of the most exciting signs of the possible presence of life beyond Earth I have ever seen”.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which has conducted several fly-bys of Venus, called Monday’s research “intriguing”.

Venus, which rotates in the opposite direction to Earth and where a day lasts 243 times longer, is a subject of intense interest among astronomers. 

It is so close and of such similar size to our home planet that some experts believe it serves as a warning of the dangers of runaway climate change. 

Previous studies have unearthed tantalising clues suggesting Venus has active volcanoes, including signs of recent lava flows. 

(AFP)

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Researchers Worry Methane Discovery in Arctic Ocean Could Signal Dangerous New Climate Feedback Loop – Common Dreams

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An international team of researchers aboard a Russian research ship has discovered evidence that frozen methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean have been dispersing over a large area of Siberia, potentially fueling a dangerous new climate feedback loop. 

The Guardian reports the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS-2020) found that slope sediments spreading over much of the continental shelf are rich in frozen methane hydrates that have been detected to a depth of 1,150 feet in the Laptev Sea.

Although the scientists said that most of the methane hydrate bubbles are dissolving in the water, methane levels at the sea surface are four to eight times higher than normal and the gas is venting into the atmosphere. What makes methane especially dangerous is that its heating effect is 80 times stronger than CO2 over 20 years. The new discovery has raised serious concerns that a new climate feedback loop may be starting.

According to ISSS-2020:

One of the greatest uncertainties surrounding climate warming [concerns] the emission of naturally accurring greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide (N2O) from Arctic thawing permafrost, and collapsing methane hydrates—crystals made of methane gas molecules “caged” between solid water molecules—in the seabed north of Siberia will increase in the future.  

“At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered,” Stockholm University researcher Örjan Gustafsson told The Guardian. “This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing.” 

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Gustafsson, a member of the research team, warned last month that “climate warming is awakening the ‘sleeping giants’ of the carbon cycle, namely permafrost and methane hydrates.”

“How much this will lead to added emissions of the strong greenhouse gas methane is poorly understood,” he said. “This is one of the grand challenges in current climate change research and a central goal of the expedition to address.” 

The chief scientist aboard the vessel, Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, called the hydrate discharges “significantly larger” than anything previously seen. 

“The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is very important and unknown until now,” Semiletov told The Guardian. “This is a new page. Potentially they can have serious climate consequences, but we need more study before we can confirm that.” 

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Scientists: 2018 Michigan Meteorite Was Filled With Organic Compounds – Futurism

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Clean Look

An unusual meteorite that streaked across the sky of Michigan as a fireball before landing on a frozen lake in 2018 has granted scientists with a peek at the things space rocks can ferry down to Earth.

Namely, the meteorite was chock full of organic compounds — carbon-containing molecules that serve as the building blocks of life on Earth — that had clear extraterrestrial origins, according to research accepted for publication in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science. In this case, scientists from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History got to it so quickly that they were able to rule out the sorts of contamination that usually impedes meteorite research.

Elbow Grease

Typically meteorites are teeming with life, but only because they were sitting around long enough for Earthly microbes or lichens to move in and colonize them, lead study author Philipp Heck, a Field Museum curator and University of Chicago professor, explained in a press release.

“This meteorite is special because it fell onto a frozen lake and was recovered quickly,” Heck said. “It was very pristine. We could see the minerals weren’t much altered and later found that it contained a rich inventory of extraterrestrial organic compounds.”

Getting Started

It’s compounds like these that some scientists theorize kickstarted life on Earth after they were brought down by a series of ancient meteorite impacts.

“These kinds of organic compounds were likely delivered to the early Earth by meteorites and might have contributed to the ingredients of life,” Heck said in the release.

READ MORE: ‘Fireball’ meteorite contains pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds [Field Museum]

More on meteorites: Scientists: Life on Earth Likely Started in Meteor Craters

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Halloween Predictions: Much of British Columbia is eerily cold under a full moon – Aviation Analysis Wing

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Halloween Predictions: Much of British Columbia is eerily cold under a full moon

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While the weather is expected to be frighteningly cold in most parts of BC this Halloween, those who venture outside might be in for a place to have fun.

A rare full “blue” moon is expected Saturday night, and it is the second full moon this month.

The last time Trick-or-Treaters went out under a full moon in British Columbia was in 2001, but the last Halloween moon in all time zones was in 1944, according to a farmers’ calendar.

© Gideon Knight_Wildlife Photographer of the Year, The Young Grand Prix Winner: The Moon and the Raven. Photo by CB2 / ZOB /Gideon Knight / wildlife photographer

As for the weather, if you’re in Metro Vancouver, it will likely be clear and sunny during the day with temperatures as low as 11 degrees Celsius, then partly cloudy at night with temperatures as low as 5 degrees Celsius, according to the Canadian Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Elsewhere in British Columbia, areas of Prince George and Williams Lake should see a combination of sun and cloud with highs of 4 or 5 ° C and an overnight low of 2 ° C, while in the Okanagan it is likely overcast and 10 ° C low. Down to 4 degrees Celsius throughout the night with the chance of light showers.

In the northern region of Dis Lake, the weather appears sunny during the day and freezing at night, with the temperature dropping to minus 7 degrees Celsius throughout the night.

In central British Columbia, it may snow in some communities on Saturday. The agency expects a good chance of flash waves in Smithers during the day, but it will fall throughout the night.

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