Why in News?
- A recent study has revealed that lightning strikes during the first billion years after the planet’s formation roughly 4.5 billion years ago may have freed up phosphorus required for the formation of biomolecules essential to life and the emergence of the Earth’s first living organisms billions of years ago may have been facilitated by them.
What the researchers found?
- The study may offer insight into the origins of Earth’s earliest microbial life – and potential extraterrestrial life on similar rocky planets. Among the ingredients considered necessary for life are water, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus, along with an energy source.
- Phosphorus makes up the phosphate, the backbone of DNA and RNA, hereditary material in living organisms, and represents an important component of cell membranes.
- On early Earth, this chemical element was locked inside insoluble minerals. Until now, it was widely thought that meteorites that bombarded early Earth were primarily responsible for the presence of bioavailable phosphorus. Some meteorites contain the phosphorus mineral called schreibersite, which is soluble in water, where life is thought to have formed.
- When a bolt of lightning strikes the ground, it can create glassy rocks called fulgurites by superheating and sometimes vaporizing surface rock, freeing phosphorus locked inside. As a result, these fulgurites can contain schreibersite.