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Searching for habitable exoplanets? Look for phosphorus

1 Oct 2020, 10:47 UTC
Searching for habitable exoplanets? Look for phosphorus
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Jets of energy erupting from a young newborn star (inset), within a star-forming cloud of gas and dust. Those jets are creating molecules of phosphorus – an element necessary for life as we know it – within the cloud. Image via ALMA/ ESO/ NAOJ/ NRAO/ V.M. Rivilla et al/ Mario Weigand/ www.skytrip.de/ Science News.
When you think of life elsewhere in the universe, you might think first of SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence – which focuses primarily on evidence for alien civilizations. But what about simpler forms of life, such as microbes or vegetation on a far-away exoplanets? To find signs of such simple lifeforms with our existing technologies, researchers have focused on analyzing the atmospheres of distant worlds for possible biosignatures, such as oxygen, methane or carbon dioxide. Now, it seems, there’s another element – phosphorus – that might also have a major role to play in the search for life elsewhere.
Phosphorus is one of the primary ingredients needed for life on Earth.
Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) announced earlier this month that they have been exploring a new way to narrow down which planets might be the most suitable for life. Their ...

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