Extraterrestrial Life Becomes Slightly Less Likely

The six most common elements found in living organisms on Earth are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and phosphorus. Recently, astronomers have been attempting to look more into the origins of phosphorus in the universe, and through observations of the Crab Nebula, they found that the amount and distribution of phosphorus in the Milky Way galaxy may be more random than indicated by our computer models of how phosphorus is created in supernovae. This means that some parts of the galaxy with exoplanets that would otherwise be hospitable environments for life may not have enough phosphorus to support life. In fact, some researchers have described it as pure luck that meteorites were able to carry just enough phosphorus bearing minerals that were reactive enough to engage in biological processes.

However, astronomers admit that more research of other supernovae remnants in the universe still needs to be done, as the phosphorus that has been measured in the Crab Nebula may not be representative of our vast universe. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed that the probability of life outside Earth may be less likely than the scientific community previously believed. With that said, I look forward to further research, as there’s no telling what we’ll find tomorrow, a year from now, 50 years from now, etc. I still believe the chance that at least one other planet in our seemingly endless universe is home to some form of life is far more likely than not. What I’m most shocked about is that our computer models of the universe may not be completely accurate, so I’m curious to know what else we will find that we were incorrect about through more observations of our universe.

 

crab-nebula

Crab Nebula

 

Links:

Phosphorus May Be More Rare in Universe than Previously Thought

Why Extraterrestrial Life May Be More Unlikely Than Scientists Thought

2 thoughts on “Extraterrestrial Life Becomes Slightly Less Likely”

  1. The topic of extraterrestrial life has always interested me. I didn’t know that phosphorus was a main component to life and really enjoyed your explanation as to why this may have lowered the chance that life exists within the Milky Way. But, fear not, there are many other galaxies, just a bit too far away for our technology. Do you believe that humans are too biased toward their own conditions in predicting life? In other words, should we be examining the possibility of defining other things as having life besides that which we know is living here on Earth?

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  2. Great post! Characterizing the elemental abundances throughout the Universe is important to understand how they all came to be formed. Asteroids and comets are important for this because they are thought to carry the original elemental quantities from when they were created.

    Like

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