SOFIA is a far-infrared observatory mounted on a specially modified Boeing 747 aircraft. It was believed that operating at an altitude of 13 kilometers would bring image quality closer to space telescopes at a much lower cost.
During the work, some scientific results were obtained, but the idea was recognized as unsuccessful and not justified in terms of the result-price ratio, and therefore the project was closed in the fall of 2022.
Now scientists have analyzed the data accumulated by the telescope about Venus. First of all, they sought to confirm or refute the presence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, reports of the discovery of which caused a heated discussion in the scientific community in 2020.
This compound is considered a sign of life, since, according to some researchers, only biological processes can ensure its stable presence.
So, on Earth, it is formed during the decomposition of organic matter in swamps. It was difficult to explore Venus with SOFIA, since this planet is always close to the Sun and is available for observation only half an hour after sunset, and the plane had to reach the starting line in advance at a strictly fixed time.
In total, three flights were devoted to the observation of Venus in 2021.
In the end, the researchers found no evidence of phosphine. According to their findings, if phosphine is present in the atmosphere of Venus, then its share does not exceed 0.8 parts per billion, which is many times lower than reported in the original 2020 work.
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