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Chemicals building blocks for life on Earth were delivered when another celestial body smashed into the planet.
That's the finding of a new study that suggests most of Earth's essential elements for life - including most of the carbon and nitrogen in us - probably came from another planet.
Researchers - Earth - Bulk - Carbon - Nitrogen
Researchers say 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.
Study co-author Professor Rajdeep Dasgupta, of Rice University in the United States, said: 'From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted.
Timing - Mechanism - Delivery
'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.'
Evidence - Combination - High-temperature - Experiments - Professor
The evidence was compiled from a combination of high-temperature, high-pressure experiments in Professor Dasgupta's lab, which specialises in studying geochemical reactions that take place deep within a planet under intense heat and pressure.
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 sulphur-rich core.
Sulphur - Content - Planet - Core - Matters
He said the sulphur content of the donor planet's core matters because of the 'puzzling' array of experimental evidence about the carbon, nitrogen and sulphur that exist in all parts of the Earth other than the core.
Mr Grewal added: '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.
Cycles - Them
'Material cycles between them.'
His experiments, which simulated the high pressures and temperatures during core formation, tested the idea that a sulphur-rich planetary...
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