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Hank shares three cool discoveries in space science, including a celestial crucible of phosphorous, noble gases found in a supernova, and plumes of water vapor on Europa.

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Hank Green: It turns out that you can get a lot of the things that you need right from outer space.  If you're short on nutrients, you can swing by a supernova or drop in on Europa for a shower with real water, then, there are noble gasses, which I could make a joke about, but I won't, 'cause I know it would get no reaction--what, right?  I'm Hank Green, and this is SciShow News.  

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Hank: Supernova are always making stuff for us, like gold and also all the elements that we depend on for living, in addition to just looking fabulous.  Phosphorus, for example, a component of DNA, RNA, ATP, and cell membranes, is a nutrient that life can't do without.  And this week, astronomers in South Korea said that they've discovered the origins of the element in the remnants of an exploding star.  Researchers were using California's Palomar Hale telescope to look at near infrared waves emitted by a supernova, Cassiopeia A.  Different elements emit different infrared wavelengths and one that made a surprisingly prominent appearance turned out to be phosphorus.  In fact, the ratio of phosphorus wavelengths to iron wavelengths was about 100 times greater than we normally see in the Milky Way.  

Now, it's long been thought that the origin of phosphorus must be the energetic factory of a collapsing star, but this is the first time that an abundance of phosphorus has been observed coming from a supernova, which seems to corroborate where this essential ingredient for life comes from.  And it is also the last of the six so-called life-sustaining elements to be detected in space, along with hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, which means that our evidence of the celestial life-making kit is now complete.

Around the same time as that observation, astronomers at the University College London discovered another supernova churning out a special substance.  Using the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, the team was surveying bar infrared light coming from a supernova remnant called the Crab Nebula, and they saw wavelengths associated with a molecule called argon, specifically, argon hydride, and pretty much freaked out.  That's because we have never observed a noble gas molecule in space before.  Noble gases like argon are, of course, so stable that they almost never form molecules with other elements.  There's only one known argon molecule on Earth, argon fluorohydride, and that wasn't even discovered until the year 2000.  Astronomers suspect that these molecules and the isotopes of argon that form them must originate in the intense energy at the heart of stars.  And again, this is something that astronomers guessed was possible, but this is the first time that we've actually seen it in action.  

And rounding off the trifecta of space discoveries this week, here's what you might call the Fountains of Europa.  It was long known that Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, is covered in water in the form of ice, and we've long suspected that underneath that ice shell, there is a liquid ocean.  Now, we have evidence that this ocean is real and it's accessible.  Astronomers with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas observed plumes of water vapor rising 200 meters from two distinct regions in the southern hemisphere of the moon.  Images captured by Hubble in the fall of 1999 and again last winter show ultraviolet emissions of hydrogen and oxygen and ratios indicative of water molecules.  The plumes could only be observed for about seven hours at a time when Europa was at its farthest point in orbit from Jupiter.  As the moon moved closer to Jupiter, the plumes disappeared.  It appears that pressure from tidal forces makes cracks in Europa's ice shell, and plumes of water vapor shoot out into space.  You can learn more about all three of these discoveries in this week's issue of the journal Science.  

I'm glad to learn that space is so generous with all of the stuff of life, and I appreciate you watching, especially for the generosity of our Subbable subscribers, without whom you would not be watching this because this would not exist.  We can tweet you a picture from our studio or give a custom message in our doobly-doo, to learn more about these and other exclusive perks, go to, and if you have an idea for a topic that you'd like us to cover or a question or comment, leave it for us in the comments below, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and go to and subscribe.

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