Science in Action: VPL Researchers Challenge the Discovery of Phosphine in the Venus Atmosphere

VPL Postdoctoral Researcher, Andrew Lincowski (University of Washington), and VPL project PI, Victoria Meadows (University of Washington), published two new studies challenging the announced discovery of phosphine in the clouds of Venus. Their work has been highlighted in a recent news article in and in the UW news, among others.

The first paper was led by Andrew Lincowski with co-authors including VPL team members: Victoria Meadows, David Crisp (NASA JPL), Eddie Schwieterman (University of California, Riverside), Giada Arney (NASA GSFC), Michael Wong (University of Washington), Niki Parenteau (NASA Ames) and Shawn Domogal-Goldman (NASA GSFC). In this study the team generated detailed models of Venus’ atmosphere and concluded that the signal originally announced as phosphine is more likely to be sulphur dioxide. Their analysis also suggested that if the discovery feature was due to sulfur dioxide, then it should be much weaker in ALMA telescope follow-up data than originally seen.

In the second paper, led by Alex Akins(Jet Propulsion Laboratory) with Andrew Lincowski and Victoria Meadows as co-authors, the team analyzed the latest version of the same ALMA data used for the original phosphine discovery. They were unable to detect a feature in the data, further strengthening the sulfur dioxide hypothesis.

The two papers are published in The Astrophysics Journal Letters and can be found here:

March 3, 2021
VPL Research Tasks: 
Task A: Earth as an Exoplanet
Task D: The Living Planet
Task E: The Observer