An international team of researchers using the JCMT in Hawaii have discovered the biomarker phosphine in the cloud of Venus. Follow up observations from ALMA confirmed the detection of phosphine in the mid-latitude cloud decks on Venus, where pressures and temperatures are more conducive to life on what is typically thought of as an inhospitable rocky planet. On the Earth, phosphine is only known to be produced by industrial processes or by microbial life that thrives in oxygen-free environments. After detailed analysis the team concluded that no known natural processes could produce phosphine in the amounts detected, as a result the team are left with the explanation that the phosphine is tracing microbial life on Venus.
The research was lead by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, UK and published by the team in the science journal Nature. A copy of the Press Release can be found here: English version, ‘Ōlelo Hawaii.
Dr. Larry Kimura, Associate Professor University of Hawaii, Hilo in the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, College of Hawaiian Language was asked to provide assistance with the translation of the news of the detection of phosphine into ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. The translation required Dr Kimura to create a new word to describe the possibility of the detection of life. In the process Makaola – a detection of life – was formed.
Maka is the basic word for “eye” and in Hawaiian the nuances or other meanings go on; kūmaka-visible, seen; makaʻala-alert, watchful; makamua-the very first; etc. Also as used in the Kumulipo when we see “maka liʻi” or tiny eyes, those maka are tiny dots so other meanings for maka are a point of beginning, or like the tip of a pen or spear. It is the word we use to mean to begin with the causative marker “hoʻo” or hoʻomaka. Ola is the word for life, alive, living, and support.