The scientists found that during the Hadean and Archean eons – the first of the four principal eons of the Earth's earliest history – the heavy bombardment of meteorites provided reactive phosphorus that when released in water could be incorporated into prebiotic molecules. The scientists documented the phosphorus in early Archean limestone, showing it was abundant some 3.5 billion years ago.
The scientists concluded that the meteorites delivered phosphorus in minerals that are not seen on the surface of the Earth, and these minerals corroded in water to release phosphorus in a form seen only on the early Earth.
The discovery answers one of the key questions for scientist trying to unlock the processes that gave rise to early life forms: Why don't we see new life forms today?
"Meteorite phosphorus may have been a fuel that provided the energy and phosphorus necessary for the onset of life," said Pasek, who studies the chemical composition of space and how it might have contributed to the origins of life. "If this meteoritic phosphorus is added to simple organic compounds, it can generate phosphorus biomolecules identical to those seen in life today."
Pasek said the research provides a plausible answer: The conditions under which life arose on the Earth billions of years ago are no longer present today.
- E. Maciá*,
- M. V. Hernández,
- J. OróIn this work we consider the role of phosphorus in chemical evolution from an interdisciplinary approach. First we briefly review the presence of this element in different cosmic sites, such as massive stellar cores, circumstellar and interstellar clouds, meteorites, lunar and Martian samples, interplanetary dust particles, cometary dust and planetary atmospheres. Thus we illustrate the fact that phosphorus seems to be, at the same time, scarce and ubiquitous in the solar system. Afterwards, by comparing the phosphorus content of our planet's main reservoirs with the amount of cometary and meteoritic matter captured by the primitive Earth, we conclude that comets may have provided a primary source for phosphorus compounds of prebiotic interest. Finally, we make a number of proposals aimed to gain observational supporting evidence to the above conclusion and other suggestions made in the article.