Monday, February 26, 2024
Monday, February 26, 2024
HomeScienceAustralian rocks 3.5 billion years old are investigated to understand the origin...

Australian rocks 3.5 billion years old are investigated to understand the origin of life on Earth

Hydrothermal vents are suspected to cover the seafloor of an ancient Earth. (Image credit: Bing Image Creator/News9).

The Earth and the other planets of the Solar System were assembled in the circumstellar disk from material left over from the birth of the Sun, 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists suspect that 4.2 billion years ago, on a young Earth, the seabed was full of hydrothermal vents, fissures from which hot water rich in minerals emerges. New research from scientists at the University of Western Australia indicates that these hydrothermal vents were nanoparticle factories that produced large quantities of phosphorus, a necessary ingredient for life as we know it on Earth, as well as billions and billions of tiny clay and highly reactive. Particles that acted as catalysts in biochemical reactions.

Research indicates that the concentration of phosphorus on ancient Earth was between 10 and 100 times higher in the oceans, compared to contemporary times. The researchers examined jaspers, a colorful mineral aggregate, 3.5 billion years old, from the North Pole Dome in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The jaspers were found to contain large amounts of iron-rich clay particles, known as greenalite. Geochemical modeling carried out by the scientists suggests that greenalite was the main iron-rich material that formed when hot fluids from hydrothermal vents mixed with seawater. Along with greenalite, the researchers also discovered small particles of a calcium phosphate mineral called apatite, mixed with small particles of clay.

An article describing the findings. has been published in Scientific advances. One of the authors of the study, Birger Rasmussen says, “We found that tiny clay particles were much more abundant than the prominent iron oxide particles that give jaspers their bright red color. The tiny, featureless greenalite particles are essentially hidden in plain sight and are only observable using very high-magnification electron microscopes. “This suggests that seafloor ventilation systems may have been a source of phosphorus for life on early Earth.”

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