Scientists search for stellar phosphorus to find potentially habitable exoplanet

Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute have identified stellar phosphorus as a potential marker in limiting the search for life in the universe. Stars with phosphorus levels similar to the Sun are more likely to host rocky planets with the ability to host life as we know it. Sincerely: NASA / JPL-Caltech

A Southwest Research Institute scientist has identified stellar phosphorus as a potential marker in limiting the search for life in the universe. He has developed techniques to identify stars likely to host exoplanets based on the composition of stars known to the planets, and proposes that upcoming studies target stellar phosphorus so that the greatest potential for hosting life System with

“, When searching for exoplanets and trying to see if they are habitable, it is important that a planet is alive with active cycles, volcanoes and plate tectonics,” Dr. of Sweary. Natalie Hinkel, a planetary astrophysicist and lead author of a new paper about this, said research in astrophysical research letters. “My co-author, Dr. Hiltrell Hartnett, is an oceanographer and reported that phosphorus is important for life on Earth. DNA in people and animals is essential for building cell membranes, bones, and teeth, and even That the sea’s microbes also. Of plankton. ”

It is not yet possible to determine the elemental proportions for the exoplanetary ecosystem, but it is generally believed that planets have compositions similar to their host stars. Scientists can measure the abundance of elements of a star spectroscopically, studying how light interacts with elements in the upper layers of a star. Using these data, scientists can infer that planets orbiting a star use pseudospecies as a proxy for its planets.

On Earth, the major elements of biology are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur (or CHNOPS). In today’s oceans, phosphorus is considered the ultimate limiting nutrient for life because it is the least available chemical required for biochemical reactions.

Hinkel used the Hypatia catalog to develop a publicly available stellar database that showed the average sea plankton, the Earth’s crust, as well as the carbon, nitrogen, silicon, and phosphorus abundances of nearby stars with bulk silicates on Earth Ratio was developed to assess and compare. And Mars.

“But there is very little phosphorus stellar abundance data,” Hinkel said. “Phosphorus data exist for only 1% of stars. This makes it really difficult to detect any apparent trends among stars, let alone the role of phosphorus in the development of an exoplanet.”

It is not that the stars necessarily lack phosphorus, but the element is difficult to measure because it is found in a region of the light spectrum that is not commonly seen: optical (or visible) waves of light and infrared light At the edge of the longitude. Most spectroscopic studies have not been designed to find elements in that narrow range.

“Our Sun has relatively high phosphorus and Earth biology requires a small, but noticeable, amount of phosphorus,” Hinkle continued. “So, on rocky planets that form host stars with low phosphorus, it is likely that phosphorus will be unavailable for possible life on the surface of that planet. Therefore, we will make phosphorus observations in future studies and telescope designs Stellar majorities urge community to make priority. ”

Going forward, these findings may revolutionize target star selections for future research and elicit role elements in exoplanet detection, formation, and habituation.

Scientist develops database for stellar-exoplanet ‘exploration’

more information:
Natalie R. Hinkle et al, The Influence of Stellar Phosphorus on Our Understanding of Exoplanets and Astrobiology, The Astrophysical Journal (2020). DOI: 10.3847 / 2041-8213 / abb3cb

Provided by Southwest Research Institute

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