Our planet is today a relatively peaceful place in terms of its nature, geologically active but not at an irrepressible level, so much so that life has happened without stopping for millions of years. While we can experience storms and natural disasters, those aren’t as constant or harsh as to make life unsustainable.
Earth is, in short, the best place to live and the only one, at least for now. But millions of years ago when our beautiful planet was still in formation, the reality was very different from now. A hostile, very hot terrain, carrying rivers of lava and volcanoes constantly erupting, an atmosphere that would be toxic for life today, and horrifying storms.
4 billion years ago, countless rays impacted the Earth’s surface incessantly, modifying its shape, eroding the ground, and causing the rupture of rocks that contained minerals, including one of the most important for life: Phosphorus.
Scientists Believe Lightnings Started Life On Earth
“Most phosphorus on early Earth was trapped in minerals that are essentially insoluble and unreactive, meaning they couldn’t be used to make biomolecules needed for life. Lightning strikes provide a new mechanism for creating phosphorus in a form that can make important compounds for life” said Benjamin Hess, study author and graduate student at Yale University in The Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, as quoted by CNN.
The study contradicts one of the best-known and accepted theories for the formation of life on Earth, which indicates that it was the meteorites that hit the surface that brought enough phosphorus components to start life. Hess and his team indicate that by the time life began on the planet very few meteorites were impacting but that the source of the phosphorus could be in the glass that is created when lightning strikes the surface.
In addition, the impact of lightning also creates other chemical elements, such as gases fundamental to life. This new theory would imply that life was started to a greater degree by carbon dioxide trapped in our primitive atmosphere causing storms that in turn led to the discharge of 1 quintillion of energy in lightning.
Scientists are very excited about this new approach to the beginnings of life on Earth because as storms and lightning are more common factors in time, it could take them a step further in also understanding the possibility of life on other planets.