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Discovery suggests that alien life may be rare


Posted on Thursday, 5 April, 2018 | Comment icon 12 comments

Phosphorous is created when a massive star explodes. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO/M. Kornmesser
A lack of phosphorus in the universe could mean that Earth-type life is a lot rarer than commonly thought.
Phosphorus, which is created when a particularly massive star explodes in a supernova, forms the foundation of DNA and is vital to the transfer and storage of energy in our cells.

Without it, life such as that found on Earth cannot form.

In a new study, scientists who have observed remnants of these exploding stars now believe that phosphorus may be a lot less common than we thought. Earth, they argue, may have gotten lucky because it happened to be situated next to the 'right' type of supernova.

"The route to carrying phosphorus into new-born planets looks rather precarious," said Dr Jane Greaves, an astronomer from the University of Cardiff.

"If phosphorus is sourced from supernovae, and then travels across space in meteoritic rocks, I'm wondering if a young planet could find itself lacking in reactive phosphorus because of where it was born ? That is, it started off near the wrong kind of supernova ?"

"In that case, life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorus-poor chemistry, on another world otherwise similar to our own."

Source: Belfast Telegraph | Comments (12)

Tags: Life, Phosphorus

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Orphalesion on 5 April, 2018, 13:46
Exactly. if we are talking rare talking rare on a galactic scale that would still potentially add up to an astronomical number.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Not A Rockstar on 5 April, 2018, 14:26
Like lotto numbers, despite the odds, people win every few weeks. I believe there is life out there. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Piney on 5 April, 2018, 15:40
In the original Dune series by Frank Herbert and the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov humans never make contact with technological life. Just different plant and animal life. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Grignr on 5 April, 2018, 15:54
I think the concepts covered in the series I mention (he did some short stories too) are:   Galactic level catastrophes occur often enough that other species are not much more advanced than our own anywhere in our own Galaxy, some species of Aliens have progressed a little more quickly and the expected expansion of those species becomes detectable in the very near future. Life is so rare that we really are the only planet to form intelligent life. Each intelligent species evolves in its own universe in the Multiverse and so never meet. The universe is a simulation entirely created to study evo... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by bison on 5 April, 2018, 17:43
Does a star going supernova have to be as massive as that at Cassiopeia , in order disperse enough phosphorus to support life in nearby forming star systems.? This isn't really clear, but if so, bear in  mind that there are 20,000 such stars in our galaxy. Lots and lots of opportunities for the fostering of life. They only looked at two supernova remnants in this study. Cassiopeia A, and the substantially less massive Taurus A (Crab nebula). The latter occurred about 900 years ago, as opposed to ~ 300 years for the former. It seems reasonable that In the older explosion, the elements, includin... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 5 April, 2018, 19:07
In a galaxy of several hundred BILLION stars there is no conceivable way that 20,000 could be considered "lots and lots".
Comment icon #9 Posted by Ozfactor on 6 April, 2018, 9:33
They don't have to land on our doorsteps , just a sign, a message to let us know we are not alone . For all we know they are sending messages but we just don't have the technology to realise it . Yet For all we know 
Comment icon #10 Posted by Harte on 10 April, 2018, 21:47
IIRC, the reason for this in the Foundation series was that time travelling robots went back and prevented alien intelligence because it led to troubles for humanity, which the robots had no choice but to protect. Harte
Comment icon #11 Posted by Piney on 10 April, 2018, 21:49
That was "Robots and Dawn" if I remember correctly. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Harte on 10 April, 2018, 22:24
What nerds we be. Harte


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