Scientists have discovered something very intriguing about the atmosphere of Venus. Researchers believe they have discovered the amino acid glycine in the atmosphere of the planet. The discovery comes on the heels of discovering a potential biomarker of life called phosphine in the upper atmosphere of Venus last month. The potential caveat to the announcement is the study claiming the discovery of glycine in the atmosphere hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal.
The lead author of the study is Arijit Manna, a Ph.D. research scholar in the Department of physics at Midnapore College in India. Currently, the research paper is at a pre-print site called arxiv.org. Glycine is the simplest of all amino acids that are present in genetic code. Out of the 500 known amino acids, only 20 are present in genetic code.
Glycine and other amino acids aren’t biosignatures like phosphine, but they are building blocks of proteins. Amino acids were among the first organic molecules to appear on Earth, and glycine is important for developing proteins and other biological compounds. In their study, the researchers use the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect glycine in the Venusian atmosphere via spectroscopy.
Glycine was discovered in the mid-latitudes, near the equator. There was none detected at the poles of the planet. In the paper, the authors note that the detection of glycine in the atmosphere of Venus could be one of the keys to understanding the formation mechanisms of prebiotic molecules. The team believes that the upper atmosphere of Venus could be going through a similar biological method as Earth did billions of years ago.
A stronger signal at the mid-latitudes was also noted in the discovery of phosphine. These are both very interesting discoveries because while the planet’s surface is inhospitable, there are regions high in the clouds where temperatures aren’t so brutal that might host life. Scientists also note that the latitude dependent distribution of glycine roughly matches with where phosphine was detected.