We have thought a lot about how life came into our planet earth. Till now, it has been known that all the biological molecules that are present on earth are formed of six chemical elements (CHNOPS). They are –
Previously, Most of these elements were found in the comets. Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, and Oxygen form the main elements of carbonaceous asteroids. Sulfur was found in the analysis of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Researchers from the University of Turku discovered the final element phosphorus in solid dust particles from the inner coma of the same comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet takes 6.5 years to orbit the sun. Phosphorus or P is the last element discovered among the CHNOPS elements. With the discovery of this element, it implies the cometary delivery of the elements as the source of life on earth.
The study has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
How was the element identified?
The Cometary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser (COSIMA) collected the dust particles and it was on board the Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft which traced the comet at a few kilometer distances between September 2014 and September 2016. After that three 1cm2 plates were photographed. The particles were identified from these images and measured with the mass spectrometer.
The identification of phosphorus (P+) ions in solid particles is accommodated in minerals or metallic phosphorus.
Project leader Harry Lehto said, “We have shown that apatite minerals are not the source of phosphorus, which implies that the discovered phosphorus occurs in some more reduced and possibly more soluble form.”
Fluorine was also identified along with CF+ secondary ions from the cometary dust particles although its role and value are still not known. The process of these identifications was carried out from the earth.
With this research, it is clear now that the comets brought the necessary elements that are needed in the formation of any biological molecule which exists in our planet earth.
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Source – utu