Humans might be lonelier in the universe than previously thought. Scientists have new evidence that one particular element, phosphorus, may be essential in creating life and it might be pretty scarce in the rest of the universe. There are a handful of chemical elements that are the primary building blocks of most life on Earth and the most important ones are oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. These four elements are known as “bulk elements” since they make up our organs, muscles, and the air we breathe to stay alive. But phosphorus is also essential to life on Earth: it’s the key additional element that makes up our DNA and RNA, the genetic makeup where the rest of our existence is encoded, and ATP, which is how we store and use energy.
Phosphorus is necessary to create and sustain life on Earth, but how did it get to Earth in the first place? After the Big Bang, mostly super-light elements such as hydrogen and helium made up 99% of matter in the universe. NASA scientists have determined that the other life-giving elements were created inside the core of stars that then become supernovae, which is when massive, dying stars explode and eject their mass out into the universe in a catastrophic eruptions. These supernovae spit out all kinds of material, including the heavier elements needed for life.