Low levels of sulphur dioxide contamination of Venusian phosphine spectra

Greaves, Jane S; Rimmer, Paul B; Richards, Anita M S; Petkowski, Janusz J; Bains, William; Ranjan, Sukrit; Seager, Sara; Clements, David L; Silva, Clara Sousa and Fraser, Helen J (2022). Low levels of sulphur dioxide contamination of Venusian phosphine spectra. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 514(2) pp. 2994–3001.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stac1438


New analysis is presented of the 1.1 mm wavelength absorption lines in Venus’ atmosphere that suggested the presence of phosphine. We retrieve a sulphur dioxide observation from the JCMT archive that was simultaneous within a few days of the PH3 1-0 spectrum obtained in June 2017, and demonstrate via a radiative transfer calculation that contamination of PH3 by SO2 was ≈10 per cent. We also present ALMA 2019 spectra of PH3 1-0 and an SO2 transition acquired simultaneously, and infer that SO2 line-contamination was ≲2.5 per cent (for the least-noisy half of the planetary disc). The contamination-subtracted ALMA and JCMT spectra (of 6-8 sigma confidence) are now consistent with similar absorption-depths at the two epochs. The two values span -1.7(±0.5) 10−4 of the continuum signal (which was re-estimated for ALMA), albeit for differing planetary areas. This suggests that the abundance attributed to phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere was broadly similar in 2017 and 2019.

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