How lightning changes rocks – Reduction of phosphorus minerals

Featured Image: Lightning is a common high energy phenomenon on Earth, like here during a storm over Bucharest, Romania. Image credit: Catalin.Fatu (Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 3.0.

Papaer: Lightning strikes as a major facilitator of prebiotic phosphorus reduction on early Earth

Authors: Benjamin L. Hess, Sandra Piazolo, Jason Harvey

You might think of lightning as a violent and destructive force of nature, but it might have helped to spark life on Earth. The enormous energy released by lightning can weather or even melt rocks. During this short, but intense heating phase, the rock’s or soil’s mineralogy changes and a very important element for life becomes available: phosphorus. Many molecules, essential for biological systems, need it. For example, the backbone of our DNA and RNA is made of phosphor bonds.

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Are we star dust?

Paper: Amino acid abundances and compositions in iron and stony‐iron meteorites

Authors: Jamie E. Elsila, Natasha M. Johnson, Daniel P. Glavin, José C. Aponte, Jason P. Dworkin

All known life on Earth relies on amino acids. Many important biomolecules like proteins are made up of them. Scientists were surprised when they found these molecules, which are so strongly connected to living systems, in meteorites. How amino acids form in non-biological systems is still not entirely understood and is closely tied to the question of how life emerged on our young planet.

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