24/7 Space News
EXO WORLDS
Earth may have had all the elements needed for life within it all along
Cooking nicely for billions of years.
ADVERTISEMENT
     
Earth may have had all the elements needed for life within it all along
by Shichun Huang and Wenzhong Wang
Knoxville TN (The Conversation) (SPX) Dec 15, 2023

For many years, scientists have predicted that many of the elements that are crucial ingredients for life, like sulfur and nitrogen, first came to Earth when asteroid-type objects carrying them crashed into our planet's surface.

But new research published by our team in Science Advances suggests that many of these elements, called volatiles, may have existed in the Earth from the beginning, while it formed into a planet.

Volatiles evaporate more readily than other elements. Common examples include carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, though our research focused on a group called chalcogens. Sulfur, selenium and tellurium are all chalcogens.

Understanding how these volatile elements made it to Earth helps planetary scientists like us better understand Earth's geologic history, and it could teach us more about the habitability of terrestrial planets beyond Earth.

Why it matters
The popular "late veneer" theory predicts that Earth first formed from materials that are low in volatiles. After the formation of the Earth's core, the theory says, the planet got volatiles when volatile-rich bodies from the outer solar system hit the surface.

These objects brought around a half a percent of Earth's mass. If the late veneer theory is right, then most elements that make up life arrived on Earth sometime after the Earth's core had formed.

But our new research suggests that Earth had all its life-essential volatile elements from the very beginning, during the planet's formation. These results challenge the late veneer theory and are consistent with another study tracing the origin of water on Earth.

How we did our work
To study the origin of volatiles in the Earth, we used a computational technique called first-principles calculation. This technique describes the behaviors of isotopes, which are atoms of an element that have varying numbers of neutrons. You can think of an element as a family - every atom has the same number of protons, but different isotope cousins have different numbers of neutrons.

Different isotopes behaved slightly differently during each stage of Earth's formation. And the isotopes left behind a signature after each formation stage that scientists can use as a kind of fingerprint to track where they were throughout Earth's formation.

First-principles calculation allowed us to calculate what isotope signatures we'd expect to see for different chalcogens, depending on how the Earth formed. We ran a few models and compared our isotope predictions for each model with the actual measurements of chalcogen isotopes on Earth.

We found that while many volatiles evaporated during Earth's formation, when it was hot and glowing, many more are still left over today. Our findings suggest that most of the volatiles on Earth now are likely left over from the early stage of Earth's formation.

What's next
While chalcogens are interesting to study, future research should look at other critical-for-life volatiles, like nitrogen. And more research into how these volatiles behave under extreme conditions could help us know more about how isotopes were behaving during each of the growth stages of Earth's formation.

We also hope to use this approach to see whether some exoplanets - planets beyond our solar system - could be habitable to life.

Related Links
University of Tennessee
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
EXO WORLDS
NASA Study Finds Life-Sparking Energy Source and Molecule at Enceladus
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 15, 2023
Scientists have known that the giant plume of ice grains and water vapor spewing from Saturn's moon Enceladus is rich with organic compounds, some of which are important for life as we know it. Now, scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini mission are taking the evidence for habitability a step further: They've found strong confirmation of hydrogen cyanide, a molecule that is key to the origin of life. The researchers also uncovered evidence that the ocean, which is hiding below the moon's ic ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
EXO WORLDS
Insect compasses, fire-fighting vines: 2023's nature-inspired tech

MSBAI and Princeton partner in SpaceWERX contract to enhance space flight training

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin headed back into space after accident

NASA: Let's Ketchup on International Space Station Tomato Research

EXO WORLDS
Green hydrogen for Ariane 6 and more

Virgin Galactic sets January 2024 for 11th mission

After a 12-day hiatus, launches resume on the Space Coast

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin sets new launch attempt for Tuesday

EXO WORLDS
A Soliday Before the Holidays Sols 4039-4040

Watch Your Step: Sols 4037-4038

NASA's Perseverance Rover Deciphers Ancient History of Martian Lake

A Rinse and Repeat Kind of Plan: Sols 4035-4036

EXO WORLDS
China's commercial space sector achieves milestones with series of successful launches

China's space programme: Five things to know

Long March rockets mark their 500th spaceflight

CAS Space expands into Guangdong with new rocket engine testing complex

EXO WORLDS
Measuring how space creates jobs and prosperity on Earth

Satellite Communications Innovator Lynk Global to Go Public via Slam Corp. Merger

USAGM enlists SES Space and Defense for advanced global satellite Broadcasting

Investor Coalition demands leadership overhaul at Terran Orbital amid CEO controversy

EXO WORLDS
Polar bear fur-inspired fibers offer exceptional thermal insulation, tested in a sweater

Second-hand clothes finally take off in Japan

Chile's state-owned mining giant forms lithium extraction alliance

China halts export of some rare earth processing technologies

EXO WORLDS
Some Icy Exoplanets May Have Habitable Oceans and Geysers

Earth may have had all the elements needed for life within it all along

Research unveils atmospheric dynamics of runaway greenhouse effect

NASA Study Finds Life-Sparking Energy Source and Molecule at Enceladus

EXO WORLDS
Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus

Unwrapping Uranus and its icy moon secrets

Juice burns hard towards first-ever Earth-Moon flyby

Fall into an ice giant's atmosphere

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.