Absent phosphorus in some part of universe questions life on other planets

A distinct lack of the chemical element phosphorus in other parts of the Universe could make it very difficult for extra-terrestrial life to exist there. The preliminary results suggest that material blown out into space could vary dramatically in chemical composition.

Milky Way Night Sky
Milky Way Night Sky Image: Cardiff University

According to experts at Cardiff University, a distinct lack of the chemical element phosphorus in other parts of the Universe could make it extremely troublesome for additional earthly life to exist there.

Scientists have found a very little evidence of the element – which is essential to life on Earth – around the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant around 6500 light years away in the direction of the constellation of Taurus.

Dr. Jane Greaves, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Phosphorus is crucial to the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which cells use to store and transfer energy. Astronomers have just started to pay attention to the cosmic origins of phosphorus and found quite a few surprises. In particular, it is created in supernovae – the explosions of massive stars – but the amounts seen so far don’t match our computer models.”

As one of six components on which Earth’s life forms depend, the discoveries provide a reason to feel ambiguous about whether life like our own future ready to exist on different planets.

The team used the UK’s William Herschel Telescope, situated on La Palma in the Canary Islands, to observe infrared light from phosphorus and iron in the Crab Nebula.

Other researchers had already studied the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A for evidence of phosphorus, so the Cardiff University team were able to compare two different stellar explosions based on how they each ejected phosphorus into the atmosphere.

The preparatory outcomes propose that material extinguished into space could fluctuate significantly in compound creation.

“The course of conveying phosphorus into new-conceived planets looks rather tricky. We as of now believe that lone a couple of phosphorus-bearing minerals that went to the Earth – likely in shooting stars – were sufficiently responsive to get associated with making proto-biomolecules,” Greaves proceeded.

“‘In the event that phosphorus is sourced from supernovae, and afterward traversed space in meteoritic rocks, it’s conceivable that a youthful planet could wind up ailing in responsive phosphorus due to where it was conceived. That is, it began off close to the wrong sort of supernova. All things considered, life may truly battle to begin out of phosphorus-poor science, on a different universe generally like our own.”

Scientists have presented their preliminary results at the European Week of Astronomy and Space in Liverpool and have applied for more telescope hours to continue their search, to establish whether other supernova remnants also lack phosphorus and whether this element, so important for complex life, is rarer than we thought.

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