econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 27 May 2016

Solar Storms Could Solve Longstanding Paradox Of How Life On Earth Arose

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Monica Grady, The Open University

It was only a matter of 700m years or so after Earth formed and its surface cooled and solidified that life began to flourish on Earth. All studies suggest that life requires water - and we know from rocks on Earth that the climate in this distant past was sufficiently warm for liquid water to be present. But therein lies a mystery.

The young sun emitted only about 70% of the radiation it emits today, making it unlikely that it could have heated the Earth enough for liquid water to exist on the surface. But now new research, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that the sun must have been a lot more active than we previously thought. The work has significant implications for theories about the production of the simple molecules required for life - on Earth and beyond.

The puzzle of how water could exist on the Earth's surface at so early a time is dubbed the faint young sun paradox and has been debated for over 40 years. There have been many different solutions proposed, but they all require significant levels of greenhouse gases to be available in the early atmosphere. However, this is not entirely consistent with what has been observed in the geological record. For instance, the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) required in the atmosphere to enhance surface temperatures is greater than seems to have been present based on evidence from fossil soils. Nevertheless, assuming that these gases were present, researchers have developed a number of computational models outlining how atmospheric chemistry at the time could have helped kick-start life.

But the new research has gone about doing this modelling in a different way by changing the starting assumption about the sun's activity. The sun was usually considered to be pretty similar to how it is today, apart from having a slightly lower heat flux. But the new study used data from the exoplanet-hunting mission Kepler, which has also been recording the activity of different types of stars, to work out that this was probably not the case.

In fact, the number and frequency of solar flares from young sun-like stars seen by Kepler indicate that our newly-formed sun must have been much more active than previously thought. Although generally radiating at about 70% of its current level, the early sun would have been subject to frequent and violent solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CME). During such an event, there is the potential for the energetic particles emitted from the sun to power through the magnetic field which usually protects the Earth.

Stromatolites, believed to be the oldest life form on Earth, growing in Yalgorup National Park in Australia. C Eeckhout/wikimedia, CC BY-SA

While there has only been one such recorded event in the past 30 years, the researchers calculated that the young sun may have produced at least one CME per day that was in the direction of Earth. This means that the amount of energy dumped into the Earth's atmosphere would have been sufficient to fuel a whole series of chemical reactions.

The cocktail of life

It is widely assumed that the atmosphere at the time - as it is now - was dominated by nitrogen. The enhanced flux of energetic particles from the sun would split the relatively unreactive nitrogen molecule into two highly reactive nitrogen atoms. These could then go on to react with almost any molecule proposed to be in the early atmosphere - including carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and others.

The final products of many of these reaction pathways are hydrogen cycanide (HCN) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The latter, also known as laughing gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas - important for allowing liquid water to exist. The former, hydrogen cycanide, is a key precursor molecule for the formation of amino acids.

In this way, the research solves the problems of maintaining the temperature of the Earth's surface, and the production of a biologically-significant feedstock for life on Earth at the same time. The authors go on to suggest that a rain of other nitrogen-bearing molecules onto the surface would also provide fertiliser for a new biology.

The result is exciting and definitely a case of solving two problems for the price of one - with the bonus of it being applicable to some of the exoplanets being discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope.

The ConversationMonica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences, The Open University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Energy and Falling Productivity
Reinhard Selten: Pioneering Analyst of Rationality and Human Behaviour
News Blog
Early Headlines: Japan Needs Fed Hike, Mexico Tanker Ablaze, 1.5C Limit Within 10 Yrs, Africa's Growth Problems, Did US Destroy Syria Truce?, Merkel: No Help For DB And More
Americans Wary Of Drone Delivery
Britain's Wealthiest Households
What Next In The South China Sea
The Dollar - Gold Relationship
Almost Half Of Rape Cases End Without A Conviction
People With 'Obesity Gene' Can Still Lose Weight
The World's Most Generous Countries In 2016
What We Read Today 24 September 2016
Is The Butterfly Effect Real
August 2016 Philly Fed Coincident Index Shows Continuing Slowing Of Economic Rate of Growth
Global Bonds: Why Our Analyst Says Things Just Got "Monumental"
Trends In Expenditures By US Colleges And Universities, 1987-2013
Investing Blog
The Week Ahead: How Will Election News Impact The Market?
How To Protect Your Money Against Negative Interest Rates
Opinion Blog
There's No Wall Between The Fed And Banco De Mexico
The Setting Sun: Japan Faces Monetary Exhaustion
Precious Metals Blog
War On Cash Turns To $20, $50, And $100 Bills
Live Markets
23Sep2016 Market Close: US Indexes Close Lower As Crude Prices Slip, Fed Lowers Economic Growth Prospects, Indicators Melting Into Bearish Territory
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved