Why Extraterrestrial Life May Be More Unlikely Than Scientists Thought

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Why Extraterrestrial Life May Be More Unlikely Than Scientists Thought‘Live Science

Why Extraterrestrial Life May Be More Unlikely Than Scientists Thought

Phosphorus is an essential element for life — but that there was enough of it for life to start on Earth might just have been a matter of luck, new findings suggest.

But that might have been an outlier. Recently, astronomers Jane Greaves and Phil Cigan of Cardiff University in the U.K. pointed the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands toward the Crab Nebula, located about 6,500 light-years away. Preliminary data, analyzed just two weeks ago, shows an amount of phosphorus more similar to the values found in the interstellar gas and dust of the Milky Way — a pittance compared with the abundance in Cassiopeia A. (The findings have not yet been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.)

"It's not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking," Cigan told Live Science. "It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this."

Some of that luck may come down to size. The star that created Cassiopeia A is roughly twice as massive as the one that made the Crab Nebula. A more massive star could have generated different reactions that produce more phosphorus, the researchers said.

If the production of phosphorus varies widely across the galaxy, so might the likelihood of life on other planets. Even if a planet had every other condition required for habitability, it might still be bereft of life because it formed where there was a dearth of phosphorus, the researchers said.

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Alien life may be more unlikely than previously thought, according to new study

Alien life may be more unlikely than commonly thought, according to a UK study that hints at a cosmic lack of’phosphorus.

The element is vital to energy storage and transfer in cells, and is part of the chemical backbone of DNA.

But the new research suggests that typical supernovae may not provide the conditions needed for forging the element.

Earth may be unusually lucky, because it happened to be situated close enough to the "right" kind of supernova.

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

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[Science] – Scientists discover the universe has much less phosphorus than we thought, potentially meaning there are fewer aliens

Why Extraterrestrial Life May Be More Unlikely Than Scientists Thought
Apr 08th, 2018 06:24 UTC Scientists analyzed the Crab Nebula, which is expanding debris from the explosion of a massive star. Credit: NASA; CXC (X-ray); STSCI (Optical); JPL-Caltech (Infrared) Phosphorus is an essential element for life ‘ but that there was enough of it for life

Alien life may be more unlikely than previously thought, according to new study
(Apr 2018) Alien life may be more unlikely than commonly thought, according to a UK study that hints at . the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science meeting in Liverpool. The scientists now plan to continue their search to see if other supernova remnants

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