General, Research, Technology

A key element of life found in the interstellar cloud next to a newborn star

Key elements of life, such as phosphorus,according to a 2013 study, were found in supernova remnants. A supernova is a phenomenon during which the brightness of a star increases sharply by 4-8 orders of magnitude and subsequently decays. But the supernova flash does not mark the birth of a star, but its death, which, in a sense, is cosmic nonsense. Against this background, the results of a study published in the journal Royal Astronomical Society, according to which scientists first discovered one of the key elements of life - phosphorus oxide - in a cloud of gas and dust surrounding a newborn star, look even more surprising. But what does it mean?

This is the area AFGL 5142, in which a young star was discovered

Comets can carry key elements of life from different parts of the galaxy

Astronomers have noticed a young bright star thatsurrounded by the gas and dust cocoon from which it was formed. The cocoon is filled with various types of molecules, including two simple phosphorus-containing molecules - monoxide and phosphorus mononitride. A team of experts suspects that the UV radiation of the newborn star helped to form these molecules. It turns out that phosphorus oxide predominates in the clouds of gas and dust closest to the newborn star.

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According to the website of the European Southobservatories, observations of a young star were conducted in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Using ALMA's high-resolution tools, astronomers were able to see in detail a star located in the star forming region known as AFGL 5142, which is located about 7,000 light-years from Earth. However, the discovery of phosphorus in the very early stages of a star’s life does not necessarily mean that this element will remain in place long enough to become part of the planets. Therefore, scientists decided to look for evidence near their home, once again looking at the data from the now defunct Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency, which studied the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 2014 to 2016.

Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (right) and a cloud of gas and dust around a young star (left), as well as the region where phosphorus oxide was formed

Rosetta was able to detect phosphorus and the simplestamino acid glycine in the atmosphere of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The presence of phosphorus oxide in the protostellar cloud allowed scientists to again look at the data and find that this element is the main form of phosphorus oxide that prevails in the ice body of the comet. This may mean that comets are the main carrier of elements and organic compounds that are necessary for the emergence of life.

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According to Science News, oxide moleculesphosphorus has also been discovered in a comet in the solar system. This helps scientists connect the far star-forming regions where molecules form with our part of the galaxy. The findings complement the evidence that comets may have helped deliver phosphorus, which is essential for DNA and many key organic chemicals, to the young Earth. Researchers note that phosphorus monoxide is soluble in water, and this makes it much more bioavailable than phosphorus, which is found in minerals.