Jenny Bergner

Understanding how volatile/organic material is delivered to nascent planets is key to predicting the potential habitability of other worlds.  Jenny Bergner, NASA Hubble-Sagan Fellow, studies how chemistry proceeds in protostars and protoplanetary disks, the evolutionary progenitors of planetary systems.  In a recent paper  she detected the phosphorus-bearing molecules PO and PN in the protostar B1-a, just the second time phosphorus has been found in a Sun-like star forming region.  Though phosphorus is an essential bioelement on Earth, we have very few constraints on how it is inherited in the star and planet formation sequence.  The phosphorus molecules in B1-a are emitting from a shocked outflow and have a very low gas-phase abundance, implying that most phosphorus is sequestered in dust grains.  Based on meteoritic and cometary evidence, the young Solar System and B1-a seem to have a similar partitioning of phosphorus between the refractory and volatile phases, but the volatile phosphorus carriers appear to differ in comets and protostars.