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It’s no secret many scientists believe life on Earth came from space. The elements which are essential for life, like carbon and nitrogen, are believed to have come from another object which had a close encounter with Earth. Scientists now believe Earth’s collision with another planet caused our moon to be formed and brought the building blocks of life to Earth.
A new study suggests the planetary collision believed to have brought carbon, nitrogen and the other necessary elements occurred more than 4.4 billion years ago. The study was conducted by Rice University petrologists, who published their results in the journal Science Advances.
“From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted,” study co-author Rajdeep Dasgupta said in a statement. “But the timing and mechanism of volatile delivery has been hotly debated. Ours is the first scenario that can explain the timing and delivery in a way that is consistent with all of the geochemical evidence.”
Dasgupta’s team conducted several high-temperature and high-pressure experiments in a lab equipped for studying geochemical reactions which take place deep in the planet’s crust.
“The core doesn’t interact with the rest of Earth, but everything above it, the mantle, the crust, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere, are all connected,” study lead author and graduate student Damanveer Grewal said. “Material cycles between them.”
Previous theories suggested that Earth received the building blocks of life from material-rich meteorites which brought them from the outer solar system soon after Earth’s core formed. Scientists say even though the isotopic signatures of Earth’s volatiles suggest this theory is correct, there’s not enough carbon and nitrogen to match the theory 100%. Earth’s non-core material is 40 parts carbon for every one part nitrogen, which is about two times the
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