The early atmosphere on our planet was as toxic as that of today’s Venus, as gases escaped the magmatic ocean during Earth’s development, scientists found after melting hanging beads with lasers for their research.
According to scientists, an object the size of Mars probably crashed into young Earth in an impact that released enough energy to melt the entire mantle of the early planet – the layer between the core and crust – turning it into magma.
This mammoth event would have taken most of the Earth’s atmosphere at the time to be replaced by a new one, dominated by carbon dioxide and low in nitrogen – similar to the atmospheric composition of Venus today and similar to Mars.
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The findings come from a study by Paolo Sosi and his team at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, whose report, published in Science Advances on Wednesday, examines “The Earth’s magma ocean and its early Venus-like atmosphere.”
To understand the atmosphere of early Earth, the team set out to recreate these conditions by floating a small piece of rock over a gas jet and then melting it with a 1900 ° C laser.
“This little molten marble, floating at almost 2,000 degrees, is like a miniature Earth in a molten state,” Sauce told New Scientist.
Using different gases in the jet to hang the piece of molten rock, the researchers recreated different atmospheric conditions, allowing them to see which one best matched the samples from the Earth’s mantle and the geological record.
The team found that once the atmosphere released from the ocean of magma at the beginning of the Earth cooled, it would be so It looked like today’s Venus. This, they say, suggests that current differences between Earth’s and Venus’ atmospheres reflect what happened after the two planets formed.
Our planet is large enough for gravity to keep its atmosphere in place, unlike Mars, while the Earth’s position in the solar system also makes it cool enough compared to Venus, the second planet from the Sun.
This means that unlike Venus, water remains in liquid form on the Earth’s surface and can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to prevent the planet from overheating – and, crucially, to create and maintain the necessary conditions to sustain life. .
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