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Most of Earth's essential elements for life—including most of the carbon and nitrogen in you—probably came from another planet.
Earth most likely received the bulk of its carbon, nitrogen and other life-essential volatile elements from the planetary collision that created the moon more than 4.4 billion years ago, according to a new study by Rice University petrologists in the journal Science Advances.
Study - Meteorites - Scientists - Earth - Planets
"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 study co-author 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 of the geochemical evidence."
The evidence was compiled from a combination of high-temperature, high-pressure experiments in Dasgupta's lab, which specializes in studying geochemical reactions that take place deep within a planet under intense heat and pressure.
Series - Experiments - Author - Graduate - Student
In a series of experiments, study lead author and graduate student Damanveer Grewal gathered evidence to test a long-standing theory that Earth's volatiles arrived from a collision with an embryonic planet that had a sulfur-rich core.
The sulfur content of the donor planet's core matters because of the puzzling array of experimental evidence about the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur that exist in all parts of the Earth other than the core.
Core - Rest - Earth - Everything - Mantle
"The core doesn't interact with the rest of Earth, but everything above it, the mantle, the crust, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere, are all connected," Grewal said. "Material cycles between them."
One long-standing idea about how Earth received its volatiles was the "late veneer" theory that volatile-rich meteorites, leftover chunks of primordial matter from the outer solar system, arrived after Earth's core formed. And while the isotopic signatures of Earth's volatiles match these primordial objects, known as carbonaceous...
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