An international study conducted by the University of Turku, Finland, found phosphorus and fluorine in solid dust particles collected by a comet. The discovery shows that all the most important elements necessary for life may have been delivered to Earth by comets.
The researchers found phosphorus and fluorine in solid dust particles collected from the comet̵
The dust particles were collected with a COmetary Second Ion Mass Analyzer (COSIMA). The instrument was aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which tracked the comet several kilometers between September 2014 and September 2016. The COSIMA instrument collects dust particles directly near the comet. Three 1-centimeter, two-purpose plates were photographed remotely. The particles were selected from these images and finally measured with a mass spectrometer. All the steps were controlled by the Earth.
The discovery of phosphorus (P+) ions in solid particles are contained in minerals or metallic phosphorus.
“We have proven that apatite minerals are not a source of phosphorus, which suggests that the phosphorus found occurs in some more reduced and possibly more soluble form,” said project leader Harry Lehto of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Turku.
This is the first time that the essential CHNOPS elements are in solid cometary matter. Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur have been reported in previous studies by the COSIMA team, for example from organic molecules. Detected phosphorus, or P, is the last of the CHNOPS elements. The discovery of P shows cometary delivery as a potential source of these elements for the young Earth.
Fluoride has also been found in CF.+ secondary ions originating from comet dust. The first discovery of CF gas was from interstellar dust in 2019. CF.+ is an ion that has now been discovered on the comet and its characteristics in the cometary environment are still unknown.
The study is led by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Turku, Finland.
The article was published in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The researchers present a list of the components of comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Esco Gardner et al. Detection of solid phosphorus and fluorine powder from comet comet 67P / Churyumov – Gerasimenko, Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2020). DOI: 10.1093 / mnras / staa2950
Provided by the University of Turku
Quote: Researchers discover solid phosphorus from a comet (2020, November 30) extracted on December 1, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-solid-phosphorus-comet.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair transaction for the purpose of private examination or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.