New York: Scientists have for the first time discovered phosphorous as one of the essential elements for life in the cosmic leftovers from a supernova explosion.
Researchers found that phosphorus is 100 times more abundant in the remains of a supernova than elsewhere in the galaxy, confirming that massive exploding stars are the crucibles in which the element is created.
While astronomers have measured the abundance of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur in supernovae remnants before, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A revealed the first measurement of the relatively scarce phosphorus.
"These five elements are essential to life and can only be created in massive stars," said Dae-Sik Moon, a University of Toronto astronomer and co-author of the paper on the discovery to be published in the journal Science.
"They are scattered throughout our galaxy when the star explodes, and they become part of other stars, planets and ultimately, humans," Moon added.
Scientists estimate that Cassiopeia A supernova remnant exploded 300 years ago.
The new observations of the object were made with a spectrograph mounted on a 5-meter telescope at Palomar Observatory at the California Institute of Technology, `LiveScience` reported.
Astronomers believe the original star was between 15 and 25 times the mass of the Sun.
When a star of such mass runs out of the hydrogen that it burns to produce energy, the core of the star goes through a sequence of collapses, synthesising heavier elements with each collapse.