to Find Potentially Habitable Exoplanets
Southwest Research Institute | 2020 Sep 16
A Southwest Research Institute scientist has identified stellar phosphorus as a probable marker in narrowing the search for life in the cosmos. She has developed techniques to identify stars likely to host exoplanets, based on the composition of stars known to have planets, and proposes that upcoming studies target stellar phosphorus to find systems with the greatest probability for hosting life as we know it. ...
Determining the elemental ratios for exoplanetary ecosystems is not yet possible, but it’s generally assumed that planets have compositions similar to those of their host stars. Scientists can measure the abundance of elements in a star spectroscopically, studying how light interacts with the elements in a star’s upper layers. Using these data, scientists can infer what a star’s orbiting planets are made of, using stellar composition as a proxy for its planets.
On Earth, the key elements for biology are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur (or CHNOPS). In today’s oceans, phosphorus is considered the ultimate limiting nutrient for life as it’s the least available chemical necessary for biochemical reactions. ...
The Influence of Stellar Phosphorus on Our Understanding of
Exoplanets and Astrobiology ~ Natalie R. Hinkel, Hilairy E. Hartnett, Patrick A. Young