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Regarding the likely chemical composition of earth-like planets - would the distance of a planet from its star change the relative abundance or poverty of certain elements? Or would other factors, like the number of planets in the solar system or the type of star, be a greater influence?

I ask because I'm wondering if a space mining company would, seeking specific elements, search for planets which were hot or cold knowing they'd likely yield specific elements? Or would that be of secondary importance? And if so, to what factors?

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closed as off-topic by JDługosz, kingledion, Frostfyre, Mołot, Azuaron Jan 5 '17 at 18:19

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – JDługosz, kingledion, Frostfyre, Azuaron
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure if this is a worldbuilding question; it might be better in space since it is about what affects the composition of planets. $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Jan 5 '17 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a real question that could be asked on Astronomy. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 5 '17 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent question: ask it on Astronomy...or Earth Science. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 5 '17 at 13:26
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The distance from the sun plays a role during formation, in particular there is the frost line. But the planets move around after being formed, and planetesimals also can get thrown around from different regions to impact growing planets an a different distance from where they formed.

Where the planets are now tells you whether volatile compounds can still be found or if they are baked off.

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Actually the distance from sun (or star) don't play any role in the forming of the planet. The role was played after Big Bang and when the stars were forming. The size of the star (and therefore it gravitation field and compressions some other factions) play role in the "debris" that came out of it and turned into planets.

The question you are asking is answered by science called astrogeology. The easiest answers are provided by searching light spectrum bounced of celestial bodies. Different elements make different "brakes" in the light spectrum and by looking at it you can determine what element is present in the planet in question.

So if the company is looking for phosphorus they would look at planets that are made mostly of that element.

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Not exactly the type of star, but the age of the star does influence the amount of heavy elements you might expect to find in the star itself and its planets. Heavy elements are formed in massive stars and scattered when those stars explode as supernovae. As time goes on the gas clouds from where new stars and planets condense become enriched in heavy elements (such as the metals your mining companies are looking for). So older stars are very poor in heavy elements (they have "low metallicity") while younger ones like our Sun (and its planets) have a higher metallicity. Star metallicity is readily measurable. It would be pointless to look for metals in the system of a very old star, or any star with a low metallicity for that matter.

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