DOI: 10.1029/2023gl103539 ISSN: 0094-8276

Comment on “Phosphine in the Venusian Atmosphere: A Strict Upper Limit From SOFIA GREAT Observations” by Cordiner et al.

Jane S. Greaves, Janusz J. Petkowski, Anita M. S. Richards, Clara Sousa‐Silva, Sara Seager, David L. Clements
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


Searches for phosphine in Venus' atmosphere have sparked a debate. Cordiner et al. (2022, analyze spectra from the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and infer <0.8 ppb of PH3. We noticed that some spectral artifacts arose from non‐essential calibration‐load signals. By‐passing these signals allows simpler post‐processing and a 5.7σ candidate detection, suggesting ∼3 ppb of PH3 above the clouds. Compiling six phosphine results hints at an inverted abundance trend: decreasing above the clouds but rising again in the mesosphere from some unexplained source. However, no such extra source is needed if phosphine is undergoing destruction by sunlight (photolysis), to a similar degree as on Earth. Low phosphine values/limits are found where the viewed part of the super‐rotating Venusian atmosphere had passed through sunlight, while high values are from views moving into sunlight. We suggest Venusian phosphine is indeed present, and so merits further work on models of its origins.

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