A new study reveals that a massive fireball from the outer regions of the solar system brought the building blocks of life to Earth 4.6 billion years ago.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Imperial College London found that this ancient meteorite contained carbonaceous chondrites, which are composed of potassium and zinc.
Potassium helps the production of cell fluids, while zinc is a vital component in the formation of DNA.
The team found that these space rocks made up ten percent of the space rocks that collided with the planet during its birth.
The remaining 90 percent comes from non-carbon materials from the inner solar system.
Earth’s life was created by a fireball that crashed into the newborn planet 4.6 billion years ago
“Our studies complement and confirm each other’s findings in a number of ways,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Nicole Ni, to SWS.
“Among the volatile elements, potassium is the least volatile while zinc is one of the most volatile elements.”
Meteorites provide 20 percent of Earth’s potassium and half of zinc.
Both are considered volatile, that is, elements or compounds that change from a solid or liquid state to a vapor at a relatively low temperature.
Senior author Professor Mark Rekamper, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, said in a statement statementOur data show that about half of Earth’s zinc deposits were delivered by material from outside the solar system, beyond the orbit of Jupiter.
“Based on current early solar system development models, this is completely unexpected.”
Previous research has shown that Earth formed almost exclusively from inner solar system material, which researchers conclude is the main source of volatile chemicals on Earth.
However, the new study provides the first evidence that Earth formed in part from carbon meteorites from asteroids in the outer main belt.
“This contribution of outer solar system material has played a critical role in creating stocks of volatile chemicals on Earth,” said Recamber.
It appears that without the contribution of extrasolar material, Earth would have had much less volatile matter than we know today – making it much drier and probably unable to sustain and sustain life.
The team analyzed 18 meteorites,11 from the inner region and the rest from the outer region.
Meteorites contain potassium and zinc and travel from the outer reaches of the solar system
And then, they Measure the relative abundance of five different forms of zinc – or isotopes.
They then compared each isotope fingerprint to Earth samples to estimate how much of this material contributes to Earth’s zinc inventory, which suggests that Earth only comprises about 10 percent of its mass in a body of carbon.
The researchers found that substances with high concentrations of zinc and other volatile components also tend to be abundant in water, providing clues about the origin of water on Earth.