Origins of Life’s Mysteries Might Be Sorted Out Thanks To Phosphorus

Researchers have finally gotten onto something that might explain how and what sparked life on Earth. The reason behind this intricate process that has no answer as of yet is phosphorus, allegedly.

Phosphorus is a mineral crucial for human DNA and has apparently got to Earth some four billion years ago, new research has claimed. The element appeared from parts of star-forming areas in space, some billions of light-years away from Earth. Now, it has been observed by astronomers.

Vital for Life as We Know it

The researchers used data from the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array), a massive telescope located in Chile, and the European Space Agency’s Rosetta telescope. Whats they found was that accumulations of gas and dust between stars got to our planet, which then started life.

Author of the research, Dr. Victor Rivilla, from the Italian Institute of Astrophysics, said: “Life appeared on Earth about four billion years ago, but we still do not know the processes that made it possible.”

Phosphorus​ is used in our bodies, producing the chemical named phosphate, which is vital to cell membranes, muscles, and nerves. Specialists discovered parts of this element on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko​. With the help of the ALMA data, the team could indicate the exact place where the molecules carrying phosphorus were birthed.

Professor Leonardo Testi, an ESO astronomer, and ALMA European Operations Manager, said:” Understanding our cosmic origins, including how common the chemical conditions favorable for the emergence of life are, is an important topic of modern astrophysics. While ESO and ALMA focus on the observations of molecules in distant young planetary systems, the direct exploration of the chemical inventory within our Solar System is made possible by ESA missions, like Rosetta.”

“The synergy between world-leading ground-based and space facilities, through the collaboration between ESO and ESA, is a powerful asset for European researchers and enables transformational discoveries like the one reported in this paper.”

Phosphorus Has The Main Role

In the meantime, co-author of the study, Dr. Kathrin Altwegg, who is also the leading investigator for ROSINA, said: “Phosphorus is essential for life as we know it. As comets most probably delivered large amounts of organic compounds to the Earth, the phosphorus monoxide found in comet 67P may strengthen the link between comets and life on Earth.”

Employing data from the ROSINA tool, which is located onboard of ESA’s Rosetta, astronomers also discovered that phosphorus​ monoxide was present on the comet67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Dr. Rivilla added:” The combination of the ALMA and ROSINA data has revealed a sort of chemical thread during the whole process of star formation, in which phosphorus monoxide plays the dominant role.”

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