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Did solar eruptions contribute to creating life on Earth?!

It was thought that solar eruptions would be an obstacle to life on Earth. But the evidence suggests that 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 would later combine to form life.

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

“We have shown, for the first time, experimentally that the rates of production of amino acids and carboxylic acids in non-reducing gas mixtures due to proton irradiation can significantly exceed the rates of production of these molecules by galactic cosmic rays,” wrote a team led by chemist Kensei Kobayashi of 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 diverse hydrogeological environments in early Earth.”

We don’t know why the complex chemistry started self-replicating about 4 billion years ago as it did. We have a rough idea of ​​the basics, but the details prove a bit difficult to piece together.

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

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

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However, later research showed that the Earth’s atmosphere wasn’t rich in methane and ammonia after all. Instead, it was dominated by gases from volcanic activity – carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen, with only a small amount of methane. Similar spark experiments conducted on this mixture resulted in very inefficient production of amino acids.

It was then suggested that galactic cosmic rays may be involved. Experiments simulating this process irradiated the early atmosphere with protons, which led to a more favorable production of amino acids. But whether galactic cosmic ray irradiation was sufficient during Earth’s early evolution to provide the kind of chemistry needed for life has remained a matter of debate.

A breakthrough occurred several years ago in 2016 when a team led by solar scientists Vladimir Irapetyan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center decided to take a closer look at the sun. This seems a bit counterintuitive. At first glance, the Sun’s early behavior does not seem appropriate to life’s circumstances. Not only was it weirder, it was even cooler.

The researchers showed that the strangeness of the sun could compensate for the coldness of the sun, as the Earth was closed with ultra-fast organisms that could have pushed the Earth despite the coldness of the sun, and sparked chemical reactions that produced vital molecules.

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

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And the effects were wonderful. The researchers found that the mixture needed at least 15 percent methane for the sparks to produce the amino acids, which is not a small amount at all. However, the simulated solar particles produced amino acids and a carboxylic acid in a mixture containing only 0.5% methane.