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Phosphorus surrounding distant stars could be a sign of life-friendly worlds


Exoplanets orbiting stars rich in phosphorus may be more likely to develop life, a new study suggests. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox.

Is phosphorus around exoplanets a sign of life-friendly worlds? By examining the chemical composition of stars known to host exoplanets, it may be possible to determine which solar systems are likely to house alien lifeforms.

Life on Earth depends on the presence of six key ingredients — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur (known as CHNOPS). Of these, phosphorus is the rarest on Earth, making it the limiting ingredient for the chemical reactions of life.

This week, we are joined by Dr. Natalie Hinkel, a planetary astrophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute. We talk about her work showing how we might look for phosphorus around other stars in the search for extraterrestrial life.

A new study from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) looks ...


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