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Is There Life On Venus? ESA Rocket To Skim Planet For Signs Of Life

KEY POINTS

  • Phosphine has been found in the clouds of Venus
  • The discovery has led scientists to look more into Venus and its atmosphere
  • BepiColombo will make its first close approach with Venus on Oct. 14

It was only a month ago when scientists discovered phosphine was present in the clouds on Venus — an indicator that there may be life on the planet. Luckily, BepiColombo will be flying by the Earth’s sister planet this Wednesday, Oct. 14 — giving scientists a chance to confirm if these observations are due to possible lifeforms on the planet.

When the subject of Venus comes up in a conversation, it is almost inevitable to bring up its extreme temperatures, toxic gases and dangerously crushing air pressure. A recent discovery of the presence of phosphine on the planet’s clouds has led scientists and researchers to think about the possibility of life on Venus, according to an article by Astronomy.com on Oct. 14.

Phosphine is a toxic gas that can only be produced by microbial life. To date, there are no known non-biological processes that could create this gas on Venus. However, the presence of phosphine could also be due to some unknown chemical processes occurring on the planet, so this alternative reason is always in scientists’ peripheral.

The scientists looking into this are determined to do more research to answer this mind-boggling question and are happy to know that BepiColombo will be making its close encounter with the sister planet tonight, Oct. 14, at 11:58 EDT, when it will be 30 times closer to Venus than the Akatsuki spacecraft, an orbiter designed to study Venus’ atmosphere. BepiColombo is expected to fly by at a distance of 10,720 kilometers from Venus’ surface.

Although BepiColombo isn’t necessarily designed for Venus, its close approach gives scientists an opportunity to look into Venus’ atmosphere up close. A number of the spacecraft’s instruments are also capable of studying the chemical composition and cloud cover of the planet’s atmosphere, which will allow scientists to gather more information on the planet.

BepiColombo’s first flyby won’t be able to procure all the data needed by researchers to find out if life does exist on Venus, but its second flyby looks more promising. During this time, the spacecraft will be zipping past Venus at a close distance of just 550 kilometers away from its surface.

BepiColombo is a joint spacecraft made by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It was launched in 2018 with the sole purpose of heading to the innermost planet, Mercury, and exploring it.
 

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