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

Venusian memory

The phosphine gas detected in the clouds of Venus may be a sign of life or some strange unknown chemical, Lisa Grossman reported in “The possible sign of life is found on Venus” (SN: 10/10/20 and 24/10/20, p. 6).

The story brought back memories for the reader Bruce Hapke, professor of planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh.

"In 1975, my colleague Robert M. Nelson and I published the first high-quality broadband spectrum of the clouds of Venus … that we obtained using the 106-inch telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas." Hapke he wrote. "This spectrum turned out to be identical to that of an elemental form of sulfur, and we suggest that small particles of sulfur in the clouds are responsible for its yellowish color. Sulfur comes from volcanic eruptions."

By then, "Russia had launched several unmanned spacecraft that had successfully landed on the surface of Venus. In the paper we noted that these spacecraft had not been sterilized and were probably heavily contaminated with microscopic, single-celled life forms. clouds ". Hapke he wrote. "We also note that many types of microbes are extremely resistant and can easily survive the vacuum of space by remaining inactive until they are in a hospital environment. Many can live in sulfuric acid. On Earth they are found in the acid drainage of coal mines. Many are anaerobic and they do not require oxygen. Instead, they generate energy for their metabolism by chemically changing the sulfur they ingest. Essentially, they survive by eating sulfur, "he wrote. "If life exists in the clouds of Venus, it is very likely to be composed of immigrants from Earth."

Other research groups have questioned phosphine detection (SN: 11/21/20, p. 16). "Based on the reanalysis of the data, one of those groups suggests that the phosphine signal was sulfur dioxide. That would mean there's no reason to get excited about possible signs of life, at least not yet." Grossman of. The theory that microbes can travel from planet to planet, either by hooking up in a spaceship or by some other means, is gaining strength among some scientists. Recent evidence suggests that some microbes on Earth are resistant enough to make such trips (SN: 26/09/20, p. 10).

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Cosmic connections

Magnetized star corpses could be a source of rapid bursts of radio and high-energy neutrinos. Lisa Grossman reported in “Magnets Could Solve the Double Mystery” (SN: 10/10/20 and 24/10/20, p. 8).

Reader James Ash I was wondering how neutrinos interact with another mysterious phenomenon: high-energy cosmic rays.

Neutrinos are almost massless subatomic particles with no electric charge. This means that they rarely interact with normal matter, including cosmic rays, a type of mass-charged particle, Grossman of. But the two are connected, produced together by energetic celestial objects. Similar to how magnets can produce fast radio bursts and high-energy neutrinos, the evidence suggests that bright galaxies called blazars emit both high-energy cosmic rays and high-energy neutrinos (SN: 8/4/18, p. 6). ).

Editor's note

On October 29, Scientific Reports withdrew the study described in “Mouthbrooder Lives in the Deep” (SN: 4/11/20, p. 12) at the request of the researchers. The eggs found in the mouth of a deep-water fish species, Parazen pacificus, belonged to a crab species, not the fish, a reanalysis of the eggs was confirmed. Although P. pacificus appears to have traits suggesting that it may harbor fertilized eggs and perhaps young in the mouth, "the original data are not sufficient to confirm that this species is a mouth," said ichthyologist Randy Singer of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. and colleagues wrote in the retreat.

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