Could solar eruptions have played a role in the emergence of life on Earth?

It was believed that solar eruptions would be an obstacle to life on Earth. But evidence suggests she may have been the trigger that started it all.

Solar particles collided with molecules in Earth’s early atmosphere to create the building blocks that later combined to form life.

Now, by bombarding a replica of the primordial atmosphere with simulated solar particles and lightning in the lab, the researchers have created amino acids and carboxylic acids, essential ingredients for proteins and life.

“For the first time, we have experimentally shown that the rates of formation of amino acids and carboxylic acids in non-reducing gas mixtures due to proton irradiation can significantly exceed the rates of formation of these molecules by galactic cosmic rays,” wrote A. a group led by chemist Kensei Kobayashi from Yokohama National University in Japan This provides experimental evidence supporting the importance of solar particle events in the early Sun as energy sources that were required for the synthesis of biologically important particles deposited and accumulated in various hydrogeological environments in the early years. Earth.”

We don’t know why complex chemistry began to reproduce itself about 4 billion years ago. We have a rough idea of ​​the basics, but the details are hard to piece together.

For a long time, scientists thought lightning could play a role as it interacts with molecules, heat, and water to form amino acids, the building blocks of life.

Experiments seem to show that this was accurate. When, in 1953, the gases thought to make up Earth’s early atmosphere combined and exploded with sparks, amino acids were formed. At the time, we thought that the early Earth’s atmosphere was filled with a lot of methane, ammonia, water vapor, and molecular hydrogen. Given these assumptions, experiments tend to focus on gas mixtures composed of these materials.

However, later studies have shown that the Earth’s atmosphere is not rich in methane and ammonia. Instead, it was dominated by gases of volcanic activity – carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen with a small amount of methane. Similar spark experiments done with this mixture resulted in a very inefficient production of amino acids.

It was then suggested that galactic cosmic rays might be involved. In experiments simulating this process, the early atmosphere was irradiated with protons, resulting in a more favorable production of amino acids. But whether the emission of galactic cosmic rays was sufficient during the early evolution of the Earth to provide the chemical processes necessary for life remains a matter of debate.

The breakthrough came a few years ago, in 2016, when a team of scientists led by Vladimir Irapetyan at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center decided to take a closer look at the Sun. This seems a bit counterintuitive. At first glance, the early behavior of the Sun seems inconsistent with life circumstances. It was not only weirder, but also cooler.

The researchers showed that the Sun’s strangeness could offset its coldness, as the Earth was obscured by ultra-fast organisms that could push the Earth away despite the Sun’s coldness and set off chemical reactions that formed vital molecules.

The team made a series of gas mixtures that mimic the hypothetical atmosphere of the early Earth, which contain molecular nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane in varying proportions. These mixtures were placed in a chamber where they were subjected to either proton radiation to simulate the effect of solar flares or electrical discharges to simulate lightning.

And the effects were amazing. The researchers found that the mixture required at least 15 percent methane for the sparks to produce amino acids, which is no small amount. However, the simulated solar particles produced amino acids and a carboxylic acid in a mixture containing only 0.5% methane.

The study is published in the journal Life.

Source: Science Alert

Brice Foster
With over a decade of experience, Brice Foster is an accomplished journalist and digital media expert. In addition to his Master's in Digital Media from UC Berkeley, he also holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from USC. Brice has spent the past five years writing for WS News Publishers on a variety of topics, including technology, business, and international affairs.

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