Superflares on the Sun May Have Provided Warmth for Life to Develop on Earth, Study Says | The Weather Channel – The Weather Channel

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The building blocks for life on Earth were likely made possible by superflares from a young sun, a new NASA study has found.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, used observations from NASA’s exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope. In studying the data, scientists learned that younger stars, similar to the sun billions of years ago, shoot out flares and coronal mass ejections far more often than older stars.

The flares that came from our sun were responsible for breaking molecular nitrogen into individual nitrogen atoms, some of which collided with carbon dioxide. Those molecules were then separated into carbon monoxide and oxygen; individual nitrogen and oxygen atoms combined to form nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that quickly warmed the atmosphere, NASA said.

“Our model describes the ‘cosmic’ ingredient required to produce biological molecules of life,” Vladimir Airapetian, a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center solar scientist, told the French Press Agency.

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Because the sun was only about 70 percent as bright 4 billion years ago, Earth relied on the frequent superflares to provide enough warmth to give birth to life. It could be the answer a long-held question about why a dimmer sun didn’t allow our planet to completely freeze over.

“That means Earth should have been an icy ball,” said Airapetian in a statement. “Instead, geological evidence says it was a warm globe with liquid water. We call this the Faint Young Sun Paradox.”

The information could possibly help astronomers find other hospitable planets elsewhere in the universe.

“We want to gather all this information together, how close a planet is to the star, how energetic the star is, how strong the planet’s magnetosphere is in order to help search for habitable planets around stars near our own and throughout the galaxy,” William Danchi, principal investigator of the project at Goddard and a co-author on the paper, said in the statement. “This work includes scientists from many fields — those who study the sun, the stars, the planets, chemistry and biology. Working together we can create a robust description of what the early days of our home planet looked like – and where life might exist elsewhere.”

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Superflares on the Sun May Have Provided Warmth for Life to Develop on Earth, Study Says | The Weather Channel – The Weather Channel