On 14 September 2020, a team of astronomers led by Dr Jane Greaves of Cardiff University announced the detection of phosphine, a potential biomarker, in the atmosphere of Venus. On Earth, phosphine can result from natural processes such as lightning and volcanic activity, but only in small amounts; by comparison, the amount of phosphine detected in Venus' atmosphere is relatively large. The only known processes that produce phosphine on Earth in similar quantities are biological in origin.
It must be stressed that this does not mean that there is life on Venus. What has been announced is a signal that is a possible sign of life, with a strength for which there are no plausible known abiotic explanations. There may, of course, be currently unknown methods of producing it in the amounts required. But this is still an exciting signal that warrants more investigation.
While the world reflects on the first flight to the moon and our future on Mars, Dr Dimitri Veras and James Blake from Warwick's astrophysics department think asteroids – the so-called “minor planets” – deserve recognition. Here’s why.
Dr Dimitri Veras and James Blake of the Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability make the case for space travel to asteroids in this article for The Conversation.
Seminar title: Inhabiting the universe: what are the limits for habitats across the future of the universe?
It was our pleasure to welcome Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford. Anders gave an exhilarating overview of a number of potential futures for life, both as we know it and otherwise. After considering the likeliness of finding alien life given our current observational and theoretical understanding, Anders moved on to consider a variety of avenues for life to flourish in the upcoming eras of the universe.
James Blake, a postgraduate student in the Warwick Astronomy & Astrophysics Group, gives an overview of his summer project researching the topic of panspermia and applying the theory to the exciting TRAPPIST-1 planetary system.