Janusz Pętkowski

Janusz Pętkowski
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT · Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

PhD

About

83
Publications
20,223
Reads
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1,470
Citations
Citations since 2017
73 Research Items
1308 Citations
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Introduction
I am interested in research leading to finding life on exoplanets. So far Earth is the only known inhabited planet. Yet it is known that the laws of physics and chemistry are universal and the same in every “corner” of the observable Universe. Can we say the same about biology? Can we identify any universal laws of biology? I study these questions using cheminformatics computer simulations as an aid in designing future laboratory experiments. More info here: https://www.januszpetkowski.com/
Additional affiliations
September 2015 - present
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Description
  • Working on topics described in prof. Amar G. Bose Grant 2015, awarded to prof. Sara Seager (principal investigator), Dr. William Bains (co-Investigator), Dr. Janusz Petkowski (co-investigator) and prof. Victor Pancratius (co-investigator)
June 2014 - July 2014
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Position
  • Visiting Scientist
Description
  • Investigation of the formation of biosignature gases on Earth and on exoplanets. Research done at Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) together with Prof. Sara Seager and Dr. William Bains.
February 2013 - August 2015
ETH Zurich
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Description
  • I work on mechanisms that drive the assembly and maturation of the eukaryotic ribosome. I focus on unraveling the dynamic proteomes of pre-ribosomal subunits after nuclear export and mechanisms that make pre-ribosomal particles translation competent.
Education
August 2006 - October 2012
University of Virginia
Field of study
  • Structural Biology
October 2004 - July 2006
University of Warsaw
Field of study
  • Biotechnology
October 2001 - June 2004
University of Warsaw
Field of study
  • Molecular Biology

Publications

Publications (83)
Article
Full-text available
We revisit the hypothesis that there is life in the Venusian clouds to propose a life cycle that resolves the conundrum of how life can persist aloft for hundreds of millions to billions of years. Most discussions of an aerial biosphere in the Venus atmosphere temperate layers never address whether the life-small microbial-type particles-is free fl...
Preprint
Full-text available
The recent candidate detection of 20 ppb of phosphine in the middle atmosphere of Venus is so unexpected that it requires an exhaustive search for explanations of its origin. Phosphorus-containing species have not been modelled for Venusian atmosphere before and our work represents the first attempt to model phosphorus species in Venusian atmospher...
Preprint
Full-text available
New analysis is presented of the 1.1 mm wavelength absorption lines in Venus' atmosphere that suggested the presence of phosphine. We confirm that ALMA detected absorption at the PH3 1-0 wavelength in 2019, from an optimised spectrum covering half of the planetary disc. Sulphur dioxide line-contamination was then <10%, from modelling of a simultane...
Article
Full-text available
Significance This research provides a transformative hypothesis for the chemistry of the atmospheric cloud layers of Venus while reconciling decades-long atmosphere anomalies. Our model predicts that the clouds are not entirely made of sulfuric acid, but are partially composed of ammonium salt slurries, which may be the result of biological product...
Article
In our previous paper we have modelled a dielectrophoretic force (DEP) and cell particle behavior in the microfluidic channel (Weber MU et al. 2022 Fluid-Screen Dielectrophoretic Microbial Capture, Separation and Detection I: Theoretical Study Nanotechnology submitted). Here we test and confirm the results of our modeling work by experimentally val...
Article
We model the dielectrophoretic response of E. coli bacterial cells and red blood cells, upon exposure to an electric field. We model the separation, capture, and release mechanisms under flow conditions in a microfluidic channel and show under which conditions efficient separation of different cell types occur. The modelling work is aimed to guide...
Preprint
Full-text available
For over half a century, scientists have contemplated the potential existence of life within the clouds of Venus. Unknown chemistry leaves open the possibility that certain regions of the Venusian atmosphere are habitable. In situ atmospheric measurements with a suite of modern instruments can determine whether the cloud decks possess the character...
Article
Full-text available
For over half a century, scientists have contemplated the potential existence of life within the clouds of Venus. Unknown chemistry leaves open the possibility that certain regions of the Venusian atmosphere are habitable. In situ atmospheric measurements with a suite of modern instruments can determine whether the cloud decks possess the character...
Preprint
Full-text available
Searches for phosphine in Venus' atmosphere have sparked a debate. Cordiner et al. 2022 analyse spectra from the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and infer <0.8 ppb of PH3. We noticed that spectral artefacts arose mainly from inessential calibration-load signals. By-passing these signals allows simpler post-processing, and 6...
Preprint
Full-text available
Evidence of chemical disequilibria and other anomalous observations in the Venusian atmosphere motivate the search for life within the planet's temperate clouds. To find signs of a Venusian aerial biosphere, a dedicated astrobiological space mission is required. Venus Life Finder (VLF) missions encompass unique mission concepts with specialized ins...
Article
Full-text available
Evidence of chemical disequilibria and other anomalous observations in the Venusian atmosphere motivate the search for life within the planet’s temperate clouds. To find signs of a Venusian aerial biosphere, a dedicated astrobiological space mission is required. Venus Life Finder (VLF) missions encompass unique mission concepts with specialized ins...
Article
Full-text available
Exploring how life is distributed in the universe is an extraordinary interdisciplinary challenge, but increasingly subject to testable hypotheses. Biology has emerged and flourished on at least one planet, and that renders the search for life elsewhere a scientific question. We cannot hope to travel to exoplanets in pursuit of other life even if w...
Preprint
Full-text available
The composition, sizes and shapes of particles in the clouds of Venus have previously been studied with a variety of in situ and remote sensor measurements. A number of major questions remain unresolved, however, motivating the development of an exploratory mission that will drop a small probe, instrumented with a single-particle autofluorescence n...
Article
Full-text available
The composition, sizes and shapes of particles in the clouds of Venus have previously been studied with a variety of in situ and remote sensor measurements. A number of major questions remain unresolved, however, motivating the development of an exploratory mission that will drop a small probe, instrumented with a single-particle autofluorescence n...
Preprint
Full-text available
Regular, low-cost Decadal-class science missions to planetary destinations will be enabled by high-{\Delta}V small spacecraft, such as the high-energy Photon, and small launch vehicles, such as Electron, to support expanding opportunities for scientists and to increase the rate of science return. The Rocket Lab mission to Venus is a small direct en...
Article
Full-text available
Regular, low-cost Decadal-class science missions to planetary destinations will be enabled by high-ΔV small spacecraft, such as the high-energy Photon, and small launch vehicles, such as Electron, to support expanding opportunities for scientists and to increase the rate of science return. The Rocket Lab mission to Venus is a small direct entry pro...
Preprint
Full-text available
Mounting evidence of chemical disequilibria in the Venusian atmosphere has heightened interest in the search for life within the planet's cloud decks. Balloon systems are currently considered to be the superior class of aerial platform for extended atmospheric sampling within the clouds, providing the highest ratio of science return to risk. Balloo...
Preprint
Full-text available
Finding evidence of extraterrestrial life would be one of the most profound scientific discoveries ever made, advancing humanity into a new epoch of cosmic awareness. The Venus Life Finder (VLF) missions feature a series of three direct atmospheric probes designed to assess the habitability of the Venusian clouds and search for signs of life and li...
Preprint
Full-text available
Venus is known for its extreme surface temperature and its sulfuric acid clouds. But the cloud layers on Venus have similar temperature and pressure conditions to those on the surface of Earth and are conjectured to be a possible habitat for microscopic life forms. We propose a mission concept to explore the clouds of Venus for up to 30 days to eva...
Article
Full-text available
The stratosphere contains haze rich in sulfuric acid, which plays a significant role in stratospheric chemistry and in global climate. Commercial aircraft deposit significant amounts of incomplete combustion products into the lower stratosphere. We have studied the stability of these incomplete combustion products to reaction with sulfuric acid, us...
Article
Full-text available
Finding evidence of extraterrestrial life would be one of the most profound scientific discoveries ever made, advancing humanity into a new epoch of cosmic awareness. The Venus Life Finder (VLF) missions feature a series of three direct atmospheric probes designed to assess the habitability of the Venusian clouds and search for signs of life and li...
Article
Full-text available
Mounting evidence of chemical disequilibria in the Venusian atmosphere has heightened interest in the search for life within the planet’s cloud decks. Balloon systems are currently considered to be the superior class of aerial platform for extended atmospheric sampling within the clouds, providing the highest ratio of science return to risk. Balloo...
Article
Full-text available
Venus is known for its extreme surface temperature and its sulfuric acid clouds. But the cloud layers on Venus have similar temperature and pressure conditions to those on the surface of Earth and are conjectured to be a possible habitat for microscopic life forms. We propose a mission concept to explore the clouds of Venus for up to 30 days to eva...
Article
Full-text available
Biosignature gas research has been growing in recent years thanks to next-generation space-and ground-based telescopes. Methanol (CH 3 OH) has many advantages as a biosignature gas candidate. First, CH 3 OH's hydroxyl group (OH) has a unique spectral feature not present in other anticipated gases in the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets. Second, ther...
Article
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 contaminat...
Preprint
Full-text available
The search for signs of life on other worlds has largely focused on terrestrial planets. Recent work, however, argues that life could exist in the atmospheres of temperate sub-Neptunes. Here, we evaluate the usefulness of carbon dioxide isotopologues as evidence of aerial life. Carbon isotopes are of particular interest as metabolic processes prefe...
Article
Full-text available
The search for signs of life on other worlds has largely focused on terrestrial planets. Recent work, however, argues that life could exist in the atmospheres of temperate sub-Neptunes. Here we evaluate the usefulness of carbon dioxide isotopologues as evidence of aerial life. Carbon isotopes are of particular interest, as metabolic processes prefe...
Article
The search for signs of life beyond Earth is a crucial driving motivation of exoplanet science, fueling new work on biosignature gases in habitable exoplanet atmospheres. We study carbonyls, a category of molecules containing the C=O double bond, following our proposal to systematically identify plausible biosignature gas candidates from a list of...
Article
About 2.5 billion years ago, microbes learned to harness plentiful solar energy to reduce CO 2 with H 2 O, extracting energy and producing O 2 as waste. O 2 production from this metabolic process was so vigorous that it saturated its photochemical sinks, permitting it to reach “runaway” conditions and rapidly accumulate in the atmosphere despite it...
Article
Full-text available
The thermodynamic properties of a substance are key to predicting its behavior in physical and chemical systems. Specifically, the enthalpy of formation and entropy of a substance can be used to predict whether reactions involving that substance will proceed spontaneously under conditions of constant temperature and pressure, and if they do, what t...
Article
Ammonia (NH3) in a terrestrial planet atmosphere is generally a good biosignature gas, primarily because terrestrial planets have no significant known abiotic NH3 source. The conditions required for NH3 to accumulate in the atmosphere are, however, stringent. NH3's high water solubility and high biousability likely prevent NH3 from accumulating in...
Preprint
Full-text available
About 2.5 billion years ago, microbes learned to harness plentiful Solar energy to reduce CO$_2$ with H$_2$O, extracting energy and producing O$_2$ as waste. O$_2$ production from this metabolic process was so vigorous that it saturated its photochemical sinks, permitting it to reach "runaway" conditions and rapidly accumulate in the atmosphere des...
Article
Full-text available
The initial reports of the presence of phosphine in the cloud decks of Venus have led to the suggestion that volcanism is the source of phosphine, through volcanic phosphides ejected into the clouds. Here, we examine the idea that mantle plume volcanism, bringing material from the deep mantle to the surface, could generate observed amounts of phosp...
Preprint
Full-text available
The atmosphere of Venus remains mysterious, with many outstanding chemical connundra. These include: the unexpected presence of ~10 ppm O2 in the cloud layers; an unknown composition of large particles in the lower cloud layers; and hard to explain measured vertical abundance profiles of SO2 and H2O. We propose a new hypothesis for the chemistry in...
Preprint
Full-text available
The Venus Life Finder Missions are a series of focused astrobiology mission concepts to search for habitability, signs of life, and life itself in the Venus atmosphere. While people have speculated on life in the Venus clouds for decades, we are now able to act with cost-effective and highly-focused missions. A major motivation are unexplained atmo...
Preprint
Full-text available
The initial reports of the presence of phosphine in the cloud decks of Venus has led to the suggestion that volcanism was the source of phosphine, through volcanic phosphides ejected into the clouds. Here we examine the idea that mantle plume volcanism, bringing material from the deep mantle to the surface, could generate observed amounts of phosph...
Article
Full-text available
Bacterial culture methods, e.g. Plate Counting Method (PCM), are a gold standard in the assessment of microbial contamination in multitude of human industries. They are however slow, labor intensive, and prone to manual errors. Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has shown great promise for particle separation for decades; however, it has not yet been widely a...
Preprint
Full-text available
The potential detection of ppb levels phosphine (PH3) in the clouds of Venus through millimeter-wavelength astronomical observations is extremely surprising as PH3 is an unexpected component of an oxidized environment of Venus. A thorough analysis of potential sources suggests that no known process in the consensus model of Venus' atmosphere or geo...
Article
The potential detection of ppb levels phosphine (PH3) in the clouds of Venus through millimeter-wavelength astronomical observations is extremely surprising as PH3 is an unexpected component of an oxidized environment of Venus. A thorough analysis of potential sources suggests that no known process in the consensus model of Venus’ atmosphere or geo...
Article
Full-text available
Productive ribosomal RNA (rRNA) compaction during ribosome assembly necessitates establishing correct tertiary contacts between distant secondary structure elements. Here, we quantify the response of the yeast proteome to low temperature (LT), a condition where aberrant mis-paired RNA folding intermediates accumulate. We show that, at LT, yeast cel...
Preprint
Full-text available
Ammonia (NH3) in a terrestrial planet atmosphere is generally a good biosignature gas, primarily because terrestrial planets have no significant known abiotic NH3 source. The conditions required for NH3 to accumulate in the atmosphere are, however, stringent. NH3's high water solubility and high bio-useability likely prevent NH3 from accumulating i...
Article
The recent candidate detection of ∼1 ppb of phosphine in the middle atmosphere of Venus is so unexpected that it requires an exhaustive search for explanations of its origin. Phosphorus-containing species have not been modeled for Venus' atmosphere before, and our work represents the first attempt to model phosphorus species in the venusian atmosph...
Article
Full-text available
Measurements of trace gases in planetary atmospheres help us explore chemical conditions different to those on Earth. Our nearest neighbour, Venus, has cloud decks that are temperate but hyperacidic. Here we report the apparent presence of phosphine (PH3) gas in Venus’s atmosphere, where any phosphorus should be in oxidized forms. Single-line milli...
Article
The search for biosignatures is likely to generate controversial results, with no single biosignature being clear proof of the presence of life. Bayesian statistical frameworks have been suggested as a tool for testing the effect that a new observation has on our belief in the presence of life on another planet. We test this approach here using the...
Preprint
Full-text available
The search for signs of life through the detection of exoplanet atmosphere biosignature gases is gaining momentum. Yet, only a handful of rocky exoplanet atmospheres are suitable for observation with planned next-generation telescopes. To broaden prospects, we describe the possibilities for an aerial, liquid water cloud-based biosphere in the atmos...
Article
Full-text available
The search for signs of life through the detection of exoplanet atmosphere biosignature gases is gaining momentum. Yet, only a handful of rocky exoplanet atmospheres are suitable for observation with planned next-generation telescopes. To broaden prospects, we describe the possibilities for an aerial, liquid water cloud-based biosphere in the atmos...
Article
Full-text available
The chemistry of life requires a solvent, which for life on Earth is water. Several alternative solvents have been suggested, but there is little quantitative analysis of their suitability as solvents for life. To support a novel (non-terrestrial) biochemistry, a solvent must be able to form a stable solution of a diverse set of small molecules and...
Preprint
Full-text available
We recover PH3 in the atmosphere of Venus in data taken with ALMA, using three different calibration methods. The whole-planet signal is recovered with 5.4{\sigma} confidence using Venus bandpass self-calibration, and two simpler approaches are shown to yield example 4.5-4.8{\sigma} detections of the equatorial belt. Non-recovery by Villanueva et a...
Article
Research for possible biosignature gases on habitable exoplanet atmosphere is accelerating. We add isoprene, C5H8, to the roster of biosignature gases. We found that formation of isoprene geochemical formation is highly thermodynamically disfavored and has no known abiotic false positives. The isoprene production rate on Earth rivals that of methan...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research for possible biosignature gases on habitable exoplanet atmosphere is accelerating. We add isoprene, C5H8, to the roster of biosignature gases. We found that formation of isoprene geochemical formation is highly thermodynamically disfavored and has no known abiotic false positives. The isoprene production rate on Earth rivals that of methan...
Article
Full-text available
We describe a dataset of the quantitative reactivity of organic chemicals with concentrated sulfuric acid. As well as being a key industrial chemical, sulfuric acid is of environmental and planetary importance. In the absence of measured reaction kinetics, the reaction rate of a chemical with sulfuric acid can be estimated from the reaction rate of...
Preprint
Full-text available
Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has shown great promise for particle separation for decades; however, it has not yet been widely applied in routine laboratory setting. This paper provides an overview of a new DEP microbial capture and separation method called Fluid-Screen (FS), that achieves an efficient, reliable and repeatable capture and separation of m...
Preprint
Full-text available
We published spectra of phosphine molecules in Venus' clouds, following open-science principles in releasing data and scripts (with community input leading to ALMA re-processing, now benefiting multiple projects). Some misconceptions about de-trending of spectral baselines have also emerged, which we address here. Using the JCMT PH3-discovery data,...
Preprint
Full-text available
We first respond to two points raised by Villanueva et al. We show the JCMT discovery spectrum of PH3 can not be re-attributed to SO2, as the line width is larger than observed for SO2 features, and the required abundance would be an extreme outlier. The JCMT spectrum is also consistent with our simple model, constant PH3-abundance with altitude, w...
Preprint
Full-text available
We revisit the hypothesis that there is life in the Venusian clouds to propose a life cycle that resolves the conundrum of how life can persist aloft for hundreds of millions to billions of years. Most discussions of an aerial biosphere in the Venus atmosphere temperate layers never address whether the life-small microbial-type particles-is free fl...
Preprint
Full-text available
Measurements of trace-gases in planetary atmospheres help us explore chemical conditions different to those on Earth. Our nearest neighbor, Venus, has cloud decks that are temperate but hyper-acidic. We report the apparent presence of phosphine (PH3) gas in Venusian atmosphere, where any phosphorus should be in oxidized forms. Single-line millimete...
Article
Full-text available
Theory and observation for the search for life on exoplanets via atmospheric ‘biosignature gases’ is accelerating, motivated by the capabilities of the next generation of space- and ground-based telescopes. The most observationally accessible rocky planet atmospheres are those dominated by molecular hydrogen gas, because the low density of H2 gas l...
Article
Full-text available
Despite more than one hundred years of work on organosilicon chemistry, the basis for the plausibility of silicon-based life has never been systematically addressed nor objectively reviewed. We provide a comprehensive assessment of the possibility of silicon-based biochemistry, based on a review of what is known and what has been modeled, even incl...