September 20, 2020 9:31 pm

Is There Life on Venus? Neil deGrasse Tyson Investigates with David Grinspoon

Last week there was a very interesting announcement. Scientists have found evidence of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus, which is unusual. Phosphine is a gas that has been thought to be an indicator for signs of life. So, that begs the question…is there life on Venus?

NASA/JPL’s Image of Venus captured by NASA’s Mariner 10.

Venus, as captured by NASA’s Mariner 10. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Paul Mecurio are investigating life on Venus with astrobiologist and StarTalk fan favorite David Grinspoon, aka, Dr. FunkySpoon. Venus has been somewhat of an obsession for David so he’s ready to dive into the recent mystery surrounding our sister planet.

To start, we ask the big question: what are the chances this is actually life on Venus? We debate the possible explanations to the discovery of the phosphine gas including new, unknown ways to create phosphine, a mistake made in the calculations, or if it’s something else. Find out why this is a legitimate mystery that has a logical path that could lead to the discovery of life.

Is it possible to bring a sample back to Earth? We discuss why that’s harder than it sounds, including the planetary protection protocol, and why it’s not the immediate next step. We explore Venus’s atmosphere and its geologically-active surface. You’ll learn about the alleged volcanoes on Venus. Can we study places and organisms on Earth that might help us understand possible life on Venus?

Then, we expand our horizons. What is the most basic and trusted way to search for life in the universe? David tells us why identifying gases in the atmospheres of exoplanets is a dependable method but also why there’s nothing wrong with the old-fashioned way of sending instruments with cameras and having a look around. Lastly, discover more about Venus’s runaway greenhouse effect. All that, plus, we ponder if life on Venus might exist in “animal” form or if it would just be microbes and bacteria.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Life on Venus at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
– Ian Mullen

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