Phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus

GS-3 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Satellites and its applications


        Recently, Phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus was discovered by an international team of astronomers. The discovery throws light about the possibility of the presence of life forms on Venus.


  • Earth’s closest planetary neighbour.
  • known as earth’s twin.
  • wrapped in a thick and toxic atmosphere that traps in heat.
  • Surface temperatures-880 degrees(hottest planet in the solar system.)
  • Highly dense-65 miles of cloud(pressure more than 90 times of earth)
  • has no moons and no rings.
  • solid surface-extensive plains featuring high volcanic mountains and vast ridged plateaus.
  • Atmosphere:carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds.

Phosphine (PH3):

  • a colourless but smelly gas
  • known to be made only by some species of anaerobic bacteria.
  • highly reactive and flammable
  • found-heaps of penguin dung and the bowels of badgers and fish.
  • in Earth’s atmosphere-only trace quantities(rapidly destroyed by the process of oxidation.)
  • temperature and its atmosphere is highly acidic – would make life impossible.


  • European Space Agency’s mission, Venus Express, found signs of ozone, made of three oxygen atoms and considered a biomarker, in the upper atmosphere of Venus, in 2011.
  • Traces of phosphine, another biomarker, in its atmosphere has just given the search for extra-terrestrial life.

Discovery is a potential game changer:

  • atmospheric chemistry or pollution from unseen volcanoes.
  • scientists have made the first clear discovery of life beyond Earth.

Importance of Space Missions:

  • manned or unmanned vehicle, into space to gather scientific data.
  • important for global partnerships
  • help global preparedness for protecting the Earth from catastrophic events.(asteroids)
  • advancing collaborative research on space weather
  • protecting spacecraft by developing new means for space debris removal.


  • ISRO’s Shukrayaan-1
    • scheduled for a mid-2023 launch
    • will study
      • atmospheric chemistry
      • dynamics
      • compositional variations
    • find out surface/sub surface features and re-surfacing processes.
  • Japan’s Akatsuki orbiter
    • currently flying around Venus
    • second dedicated Venus mission.
  • European Venus Express mission
    • orbit around the planet from 2006 through 2014.


         The researchers said that their research provided evidence “for anomalous & unexplained chemistry” on Venus.

         Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.

In fact, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future.

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