Astronomers recently discovered one of the building blocks of life in our Milky Way Galaxy. The researchers used two radio telescopes to detect the key life ingredient, phosphorous on the edge of the Milky Way. The team revealed that the discovered phosphorous plays a vital role in the creation of DNA and RNA in living organisms.
Researchers from the University of Arizona led these observations which enabled the scientific community to learn about the formation of elements in the Milky Way’s furthest reaches.
How the team conducted the study to detect life Ingredient
The team of scientists conducted the study using the 12-meter radio telescope at the Arizona Radio Observatory on Kitt Peak and a 30-meter radio telescope maintained by the Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Millimeter Range (IRAM) located near Granada, Spain.
The data also showed the existence of phosphorus in WB89-621. Keep in mind WB89-621 is a molecular cloud located about 74,000 light-years away from our galactic center. Astronomers used the two telescopes to discover the presence of phosphorus monoxide and phosphorous nitride within this region.
“The discovery extends the presence of phosphorus almost twice as far out as where it was known to exist,” an official statement reveals.
Aside from phosphorus, other primary elements for life ingredients consist of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur. Astronomers earlier predicted elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen to form in lower-mass stars which are more prevalent close to the Milky Way’s outskirts. When these lower-mass stars get closer to the end of their life cycles, they release these elements into space.
“But to make phosphorus, you need some kind of violent event. It is thought that phosphorus is created in supernova explosions, and for that, you need a star that has at least 20 times the mass of the sun,” said Lucy Ziurys, Regents Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Astronomy and astronomer at Steward Observatory, in an official release.
Basically, astronomers do not expect to see massive star formation at the outer edges of our galaxy. because of the decreased density of matter as one travels away from the Milky Way’s core. Hence, these stars cannot acquire enough mass to end their lives in supernovae. In addition, the research on phosphorus dispersion also depends on other factors aside from supernova explosions.
How Phosphorus Forms in the Outer Regions
For this study, scientists tried to understand how essential elements reach the galaxy’s outskirts.
“Low and intermediate-mass stars may generate excess neutrons by stripping them off of carbon atoms during the end of their life cycle,” the scientists explain.
These neutrons could possibly congregate in pockets between the Stars’ hydrogen and helium-burning shells. Hence, with the addition of these neutrons to silicon toms, phosphorous could be created.
The team published the results of the study in the journal Nature.