Billions of years ago, a mysterious embryonic planet with a sulphurous core smashed into Earth – and created both the moon and the possibility of life.
Scientists previously believed that the moon was created from debris left behind when the Earth and a body the size of Mars smashed together 4.4 billion years ago.
Now researchers believe that the cosmic cataclysm might have set the scene for the emergence of life – with the debris from the destroyed planet containing the seeds of life
This included most of the nitrogen and carbon found in living things, including humans alive today.
“From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted,” lead scientist Dr Rajdeep Dasgupta, from Rice University in Texas said.
“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 the geochemical evidence.
“This study suggests that a rocky, Earth-like planet gets more chances to acquire life-essential elements if it forms and grows from giant impacts with planets that have sampled different building blocks, perhaps from different parts of a protoplanetary disk.”
The research is published in the journal Science Advances.
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