“Our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going? It is very difficult to describe the tremendous emotions we felt when realized what we had found and what it means for the future as we search for an explanation of our place in the universe,” said astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka at Columbia University about the discovery of a violent collision of two neutron stars 4.6 billion years ago as the likely source of some of the most coveted matter on Earth.
“There are a few things that make the solar system kind of strange.” Lauren Weiss, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal. “One of which is we have a giant planet. Only about 10 percent of sunlike stars have a giant planet. And there are probably even fewer that have two giant planets.”
“This is a new element of how our solar system works,” said Thomas Cravens, professor of physics & astronomy at the University of Kansas and a co-author of the new paper. “Two things surprised me. One is the chemical complexity of what was coming off the rings — we thought it would be almost entirely water based on what we saw in the past. The second thing is the sheer quantity of it — a lot more than we originally expected. The quality and quantity of the materials the rings are putting into the atmosphere surprised me.”
Phosphorus is one of the six main elements that make up the human body, and is a necessary building block for other organisms. However, unlike hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and calcium, phosphorus is rare. It is even more scarce in the rest of the Solar System.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will host a live-streamed Science Chat at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Friday, Sept. 7, during which experts will talk about the role of the agency’s Dawn spacecraft in studying the beginning of our solar system, and the approaching end of its 11-year mission.