The origin of life on Earth is one of the most complex puzzles facing scientists. It involves not only identifying the numerous chemical reactions that must take place to create a replicating organism, but also finding realistic sources for the ingredients needed for each of the reactions. One particular problem that has long faced scientists who study the origin of life is the source of the elusive element, phosphorus. A new paper shows lightning strikes would have provided a widespread source of phosphorus. This means lightning strikes may have helped spark life on Earth and may be continuing to help life start on other Earth-like planets.
- Although phosphorus was present when life began on Earth, it was trapped in minerals and therefore unavailable.
- The mineral schreibersite is a source of phosphorous and can come from meteorites and lightning.
- Lightning strikes may be the source of phosphorus needed for life on other planets.
“To determine if this was the case, we estimated the amount of phosphorus made available by lightning strikes from 4.5 billion years ago, when the Earth formed, to 3.5 billion years ago when we have the earliest fossil evidence of life.”