London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd. FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS OF THE 1967 LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN WHICH CARL SAGAN & HAROLD MOROWITZ HYPOTHESIZED LIFE MAY EXIST ON VENUS. The authors’ letter to the editor presents an analysis of the issue of life on Venus and speculates about the possibility that the shadowy patches in the clouds of Venus are, in fact, microscopic life.
Fifty-three years later, on the 14th of September 2020, research that set out to prove or disprove Sagan and Morowitz’s hypothesis is close to proving them right. As did Sagan and Morowitz, the new research suggests that if life it exists, it is in the clouds surrounding Venus. Their 1967 letter begins with the following sentence “While the surface conditions of Venus make the hypothesis of life there implausible, the clouds of Venus are a different story altogether” (Sagan & Morowitz, 1259).
“The unexpected atmospheric detection of phosphine, a smelly gas made by microbes on Earth, could spark a revolution in astrobiology” ( Mann, Venus Might Host Life, New Discovery Suggests, Scientific American, September 14, 2020). “The detection of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere could turn scientists’ gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life” (Stirone et al, Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds, New York Times, September 14, 2020).
“Since the 1960s, astronomers have also noticed that Venus’s clouds are not reflecting as much of the sun’s ultraviolet light as they should be: an unknown something in the atmosphere seems to be preferentially absorbing that light instead. This observation led the late astrobiologists Harold Morowitz and Carl Sagan to propose that energy-hungry photosynthetic organisms might be the culprit” (Mann).
In 2020, “Telescopes have detected unusually high concentrations of the molecule phosphine—a stinky, flammable chemical typically associated with feces, farts and rotting microbial activity—in an atmospheric layer far above the planet’s scorching surface.
“The finding is curious because here on Earth, phosphine is essentially always associated with living creatures, either as a by-product of metabolic processes or of human technology such as industrial fumigants and methamphetamine labs. Although toxic to many organisms, the molecule has been singled out as a potentially unambiguous signature of life because it is so difficult to make through ordinary geological or atmospheric action” (ibid). Item #1509
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd. Complete issue in original wrappers. 4to. (11 x 8 inches). Not a library copy. Very, very slight edge wear. Bright and clean inside and out. Fine condition by any measure.