Our planet was involved in some major collisions billions of years ago. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The carbon and nitrogen that make up our bodies likely came from a planet that once smacked in to the Earth.
The early solar system was a particularly violent place, with cataclysmic collisions between protoplanets being a relatively common occurrence.
One such collision, which saw the Earth collide with an itinerant planet the size of Mars around 4.4 billion years ago, is believed to have created the debris which later coalesced in to the Moon.
Now according to scientists at Rice University in Texas, this violent collision may have also transferred volatile elements to our planet's surface - elements that would later be essential for life to develop.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted experiments involving the same high temperatures and pressures that can be found deep inside a planet.
The goal was to determine exactly where many of Earth's key elements may have come from.
"From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted," said researcher Rajdeep Dasgupta.
"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 the geochemical evidence."
"This study suggests that a rocky, Earth-like planet gets more chances to acquire life-essential elements if it forms and grows from giant impacts with planets that have sampled different building blocks, perhaps from different parts of a protoplanetary disc."
Source: The Guardian | Comments (9)
Earth, Moon, Life