By analyzing meteorites, Imperial scientists discovered the possible distant origin of Earth's volatile compounds, some of which are the basis of life. They discovered that asteroids from the outer Solar System, which includes the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, and located outside the asteroid belt, are the source of most of Earth's supply of the volatile element zinc. It is also estimated that other important volatiles such as water are provided by this substance.
Volatiles are substances or elements that change from solid or liquid to vapor at very low temperatures. They consist of the six elements most commonly found in water and living things. In light of this, the addition of this element was crucial to the development of life on Earth.
Until recently, scientists believed that most of the volatile matter on Earth originated from asteroids forming closer to the planet. The discoveries provide important clues as to how Earth acquired the unique ecosystems needed to support life.
More than Half of Zinc May Have Come From Jupiter
"Our measurements reveal that nearly half of Earth's zinc inventory is supplied by material from the outer Solar System, outside the orbit of Jupiter," said Professor Mark Rehkämper of Imperial College London. This was completely unexpected based on current ideas regarding the early formation of the Solar System.
Previous studies had revealed that the Earth was primarily composed of material from the inner Solar System, and it was concluded that this was the main source of the planet's volatile compounds. But recent discoveries point to a larger role for the outer Solar System than previously believed.
“Professor Rehkämper continued: “This material from the Outer Solar System has played a crucial role in the design of the Earth's account inventory. It seems that the Earth going into material input from the outer Solar System would now have significantly less costly matter, making it drier and possibly incapable of supporting life. ”
To cover the study, the researchers examined 18 different meteorites, including seven carbonaceous meteorites from the outer Solar System and one non-carbon meteorite from the inner Solar System.
The protective abundances of five different zinc coatings or isotopes were measured for each meteorite.
The amount that each of these components contributed to Earth's zinc inventory was then calculated by comparing each isotopic fingerprint with samples taken from the planet. The findings show that although carbonaceous bodies only make up about 10% of Earth's mass, they provide about 50% of the planet's zinc.
According to the researchers, the material with a high concentration of zinc and other volatile elements is expected to be quite abundant in water and provide information about the Earth's water supply.
"We've known for a long time that some carbonaceous material was added to Earth, but our findings suggest that this material plays an important role in building our budget for volatile elements, some of which are essential for life to thrive," said Rayssa Martins of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering.
The scientists will then study rocks from Mars and the Moon, where water once existed but dried up between 4,1 and 3 billion years ago. According to Professor Rehkämper, the Moon was formed 4,5 billion years ago when a large asteroid struck the developing Earth.
We can test this theory by analyzing the zinc isotopes in moonstones and determine whether the impacting asteroid played an important role in transporting volatile materials such as water to Earth.
Günceleme: 29/01/2023 12:30
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