Life on Earth may be unique. The universe is missing an essential element
Phosphorus is an essential element for life, at least as we know it, but that there was enough of it to start life on Earth may just be a matter of luck. It is formed in supernovae – powerful explosions that end the life of a star. This element is essential for storing and transferring energy in the comorkach and is part of the chemical chain of DNA.
According to a new study conducted by scientistsow from Cardiff University and presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science held in Liverpool, the abundance of phosphorus in the Milky Way may be more random than scientists previously thought. Typical supernovae may not provide conditionsoIn necessary for the formation of this element.
Someore places thatohe search for extraterrestrial life enthuses, may not have enough phosphorus to support life. Even if they are in the ecosphere and there are ideal conditions for liquid water on their surface. Earth, in this respect, may have been unusually fortunate to be close enough to a proper supernova. There are increasing indications that liquid water is not the only condition for sustaining life.
– Path to carry phosphorus to newborn planets looks quite uncertain. We believe that only a few mineralow containing phosphorus, whichore arrived on Earth probably in meteorites, was reactive enough to engage in the formation of proto-biomolecules – said Jane Greaves of Cardiff University.
– If phosphorus comes from supernovae, then subrochews its way through space in meteorites, and we wondered if young planets might be lacking it just because of where it was born? That’s because they were formed in the vicinity of the wrong supernova? In that case, life could really struggle with a phosphorus-poor chemistry, on another world, whichory is similar to ours – Greaves added.
The researchers drew these conclusions after observing twooch supernovae – remnants of Cassiopeia A (Kas A) and the famous Crab Nebula. Teamo³ astronomerow used the Herschel Space Observatory for its research to search for signatures of phosphorus and iron in the Crab Nebula, located nearly 6,500 light years away. Earlier studies looked for phosphorus in Kas A, ktora is located 11,000 light years from us.
Phosphorus is difficult to observe and it wasn’t until 2013 that astronomers made the first measurements of theoIn this element in the remains of the supernova Kas A.
Porownanie the resultow of these observations showed much less phosphorus in the Crab Nebula than in Kas A. The observed amount of phosphorus in the Crab Nebula turned out to be similar to values found in interstellar gas and dust in the Milky Way. About 100 times less in porownaniu z Kas A.
– The two explosions appear to be rodiffer from each other, perhaps because Kas A is the result of the explosion of a rare supermassive star – Phil Cigan admitted. – There is no guarantee that phosphorus is everywhere in abundance. It seems that luck plays a much bigger role here – added.
Researchers zwroThey paid attention to the mass of the star, whichora then explodes as a supernova. A more massive star could generate rotive reactions, whichore produce more phosphorus. If phosphorus production varies widely across the galaxy, so may the probability of life on other planets.
The observations presented at the conference are still preliminary. Astronomers were only able to make a partial measurement of theow, but they plan to continue the search to check the amount of phosphorus in the remains of other supernovae.
– We want to look at how phosphorus diffuses into space from the remains of a supernova. Here’s the key – admitted Cigan.