It is perhaps the greatest mystery facing science today, but now a team of scientists think that life on Earth emerged out of thin air.
|Early Earth had a blankert of haze that showered the surface with organic material|
By mimicking in a lab the gases that could have been present on early Earth, researchers have concluded that a layer of haze blanketing our planet produced organic material that could have helped living organisms develop.
The haze spreading over early Earth could have supplied the planet with more than 100 million tons of organic material annually, the researchers say. “As these particles settled out of the skies, they would have provided a global source of food for living organisms,” said study co-author Melissa Trainer.
When sunlight hits an atmosphere of methane and nitrogen, the ultraviolet light triggers chemical reactions that result in the formation of aerosol particles. These particles accumulate to generate a thick misty layer.
“It turns out that organic haze can form over a wide range of methane and carbon dioxide concentrations,” said study co-author Margaret Tolbert of the University of Colorado at Boulder. “This means that hazy conditions could have been present for many millions or even a billion years on Earth while life was evolving.”
The researchers believe that the layer also protected the young Earth from harmful radiation and helped regulate climate. Scientists still do not know exactly what triggered the vital spark of life, however.