The Moon’s Birth May Have Given Earth Ingredients for Life | SciShow News


[ ♪ Intro ] When you look at Earth today, it’s easy
to imagine that it formed as a perfect, fertile planet, full of everything it needed to support
life. It’s a beautiful, big, wet rock. But scientists are pretty confident that’s
not what happened. They’ve known for a long time that, because
of Earth’s early conditions, the key ingredients of life, elements like carbon and nitrogen, have not been here since the beginning. Popular hypotheses suggest they arrived via
meteorites or comets, but none of those models totally checks out. So now, there’s another idea. Last Wednesday, in a paper published in Science
Advances, researchers announced that these elements most likely made a more dramatic arrival. Instead of coming on meteorites, they may
have come from a massive collision. The same massive collision that formed the
Moon. Now it’s not surprising that these elements,
called volatiles, came from elsewhere. They have really low boiling points, so when
Earth was forming, it would have been way too hot to hold onto them. And also, thanks to their chemistry, any volatiles
that didn’t escape would likely have been pulled into the Earth’s iron core. So, somehow, they must have been added to
the mix later. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. It’s just that figuring out that “somehow”
is much easier said than done. Like, even though the idea about Earth getting
its volatiles from meteorites is popular, the numbers have never quite added up. Earth’s ratio of carbon to nitrogen is way
higher than that of any meteorite. So in this new study, a team of researchers
at Rice University got creative to try and understand what happened. In their lab, they used machinery to put rocks
under extremely high pressure and temperature, squeezing them as if they were around 100
kilometers below the Earth’s surface. They were trying to recreate the environment that would have existed when planets’ cores were forming. And they found something interesting. In their experiments, a planet with an iron
core would normally pull in all the volatiles, just like on Earth. But if that core was rich with sulfur, the
volatiles were less attracted to it, so they remained free. That doesn’t mean much for Earth itself,
since our planet doesn’t have a sulfur-rich core. But it does mean that a foreign rock with
a core like that could have had plenty of volatiles in its outer layers. So if an object like this collided with Earth
at some point, it could have contaminated our planet with those elements that earth had long ago lost. You might be thinking that sounds like a lot
of sketchy “could have”s, but the researchers found that it was surprisingly likely. They ran around a billion simulations of the
evolution of the solar system, and found that the best explanation for the number and ratio of volatile elements on Earth is a scenario where an object around the size of Mars collides
with our planet. Now as for the timeline, in the best-fit scenario, the collision lined up with the one that formed the Moon. It’s a promising, and really convenient,
idea, but the case isn’t closed yet. This study mainly looked at the chemistry
that might have happened during a collision, but we’ll need to learn more about the physical
side of how planets grow and evolve. Still, if proven, this research backs up the
idea that, in all likelihood, we owe our whole existence to the colliding worlds of the early solar system. Of course, it’s not easy to decode the solar system’s history billions of years after events took place. Fortunately, some clues are locked away at
the edge of our solar system, and scientists are starting to uncover them. On Monday, in the journal Nature Astronomy,
researchers announced that they may have indirectly detected a kilometer-sized rock in the Kuiper
belt, the ring of icy objects past Neptune. If true, it would be the first time astronomers made a detection of an object like this on two separate telescopes, making it the most
convincing detection yet. These barren rocks might not seem like they
have much to do with us, but they’re kind of like long-lost relatives. Earth and the other planets formed from objects
like those. The difference is that this icy fringe of
the solar system wasn’t dense enough to form planets, so it’s barely evolved at
all in the last 4.6 billion years. So in the absence of time travel, it’s the
closest we can get to seeing what things were like when the planets were first forming. In the study, scientists were especially interested
in finding objects between one and 10 kilometers across, because rocks like these formed the
seeds of our planets. Unfortunately, objects that size are way faint. Like, much fainter than Pluto, so even the
largest telescopes can’t see them directly. But, in theory, and maybe now for the first
time in practice, we can detect them indirectly by measuring blips in the light as they pass
in front of stars. It’s a method called a stellar occultation. And it’s not easy to pull off. That blip in light is very small and lasts
less than a second, and with just one telescope, it can be embarrassingly difficult to tell
between a 4.6-billion-year-old space rock and, like, a bird that flew past. So the team in this study set up two identical
telescopes on the roof of a school in Japan, and monitored around 2000 stars for just over
a year. After sifting through more than 100,000 hours
of data, they found what they were looking for: one possible detection of a Kuiper belt
object passing in front of a star. So far, it’s just a candidate. Even though the chances are really small,
we can’t entirely rule out the possibility that the signal came from a statistical fluke,
or something like an asteroid. But if it is real, this tiny shadow can still
offer some insight. Making some assumptions about its shape and position, scientists peg its diameter at around 1.3 kilometers. That supports previous results that suggest
there may be more small objects in the Kuiper belt than some studies previously thought. And the better we understand how they’re
distributed, the better we can understand what kinds of objects grew into the planets and which ones stayed behind. To get closer to that answer, the team and
their collaborators plan to keep looking for other occultations that can tell us more about
these ancient rocks and the history we share with them. So, between our observations and simulations, we can start to fill in some of the holes in our solar system’s majestic history. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Space News! And especially thank you to all the people
who support us on Patreon, helping us unpack science news like this. We love doing what we do and we’re very
thankful to have you on board. If you want to support the show and partner
up with a bunch of other curious, wonderful people, you can go to patreon.com/scishow. [ ♪ Outro ]

100 Replies to “The Moon’s Birth May Have Given Earth Ingredients for Life | SciShow News”

  1. Occultation is also how astronomers determined that Ultima Thule had its 2 lobed shape, because they were able to watch it occult multiple stars at (or very nearly at) once. By knowing it's path relative to the stars and the length of the occultations they could model shapes that would fit the results. They were super close too

  2. If the Earth mk 1 was too hot and small to hold onto "volitiles", why would the smaller (and probably just as hot) Theia have been able to hold onto them and transfer them to Earth when they collided?

    If the "volitiles" went to the Earth mk 1 core, wouldn't they have come back up when Earth mk 2 formed with its large & dense iron core?

    Finally… The Moon doesn't have a sulphur core. It's also iron, though small.

  3. lol so you are saying life is nearly impossible since almost all planets the size of earth sink all the volatiles to the core and yet another convenient highly unlikely coincidence makes life on earth possible?

  4. So our origin is not he earth but the other planet that collided with earth?
    How do we know that a rogue planet came crashing into the earth and not the other way around?

  5. Isn’t it mostly accepted that while the ingredients for life didn’t exist at the time, the harsh conditions were capable of producing them? I thought they recreated similar conditions in a lab and found many necessary amino acids for rna

  6. I think saying "we could be the result of a spectacular collision between planets" sounds way better than saying some guy in the sky did it.

  7. So not only must a world be in the right zone, they need a huge amount of seeding to get the elements they'd need to support life.

  8. How about until we find enough Evidence and actualize some predictions to support a theory, we don't go spouting it off in public forums?

  9. Huh. So another barrier to the evolution of alien life; need iron core for a magnetic field to protect the surface and limit atmospheric erosion from the solar wind, but it sucks up the elements that are necessary for the evolution of life(atleast as we know it, but no guarantee life can evolve without them, even if theoretically possible), so something else needs to deliver enough of them, late enough in planetary development, for them to be available.
    Despite the countless planets out there, the answer to the Fermi Paradox may really be that intelligent life needs so many things to go exactly right as to be sufficiently rare; we may be the first people into space in our galaxy.

  10. If this is even remotely true then that just speaks on how rare life is. The conditions for everything to go right are so slim that there may only be a few dozen planets harboring life forms in the nigh infinite reaches of the universe. All thanks to our relatively safe galactic neighborhood.

  11. I have an idea. When the earth started cooling down and the magnetosphere started bouncing off the sun's farts, it eventually led to the creation of an atmosphere and the greenhouse effect started to cook up hydrogen and oxygen into H2O. Cheers! 🍻

  12. yes hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs , they are common and like to out gas , if you by a volcano ,oil rig , or caves, run away ! move uphill , note the wind , move twords fresh air , asap.emergency!

  13. maybe the moon is like a sperm and the earth is an egg
    lots of thing in reality mirror eachother on a universal scale

  14. overall , geologist and astronomy dudes , dislike cosmic collision's , lots of meteorite s , zero or one strike by a comet . and the moon thing . one collision , object Mars sized , nobody likes this idea , but it's been 50 years ,it's accepted , mostly. ratios of present elements vs expected normative ratios , are all based on a sample of one , earth , we know many specific things very exactly , what does it mean ! is philosophy , a very different department .

  15. I love how unlikely life is. I love how many things needed to happen to make us and to make this possible. It's all just so amazing.

  16. So…could it be that Mars collided with Earth millions (billions) of years ago, and that's where the elements necessary for life came from? I know scientists' think Mars' core is largely liquid iron, but do believe it could have sulfur….

  17. But the heat from such a collision would have boiled off any of the chemicals you are talking about.
    Such a collision would have completely melted the Earth, and it would have remained molten for a long long time,

  18. How did the Japanese get 100,000 hours of data off of 2 telescopes in one year? There are only 8760 hours in one year, and half of that is in the daytime.

  19. Re "Elements from Space" Beyond the additions off volatiles I'm curious as to whether the orbit of earth would have been affected by the collision the study is postulating happened.

  20. This also reduces the number of planets suitable for generation of life by A LOT. Not only it has to be in the Goldilock's zone, but has to have had collision similar to Earth. Maybe looking for exomoons can further imply the possibility of life on exoplanets.

  21. Question: how do scientists estimate the composition of the universe? You know, that story about 5% ordinary matter, 24% dark matter and the rest dark energy. I've never heard anything about how do they come up with this estimation… Please help!

  22. spend a billion and send a new satellite to the keiper belt and have cameras of all sorts, scanners and more. This is important, get off Mars, we've seen everything there already now.

  23. Guys, I some kind of need in help. Go next down the comment section if you don't have much time.

    I want to share my story with you. (the whole point of the comment is try to unite some people together)
    At first I want to say that I believe that some people search for information because it maintains their worldview. There is a lot of reasons, but this is just one of them. Many people know that science changed the world, it changes it right know and it will changing it in the future, and that's one of the reasons they are interested in science – because it can solve humanities problems. Many of those who have such worldview face the one big problem – the information is not in the one exact place – it is scattered across the internet. To reach that knowledge you have to work hard, you have to visit a dozens of videos or websites to assemble the puzzle, so that the main picture will be seen clearly. For some topics the dispute is going, so, again, it is difficult to process all the opinions and arguments from both sides of dispute. And sometimes the information is basicly restricted. For example, I once tried to download a book from the internet, but I found that there is no free, or "pirate" version.
    That's all above as you may already understand is a big problem for me. I am feel unfulfilled when I lack some essential for me information. Also, I have no much time to do all the things I want to do and at the same time search for the information and it's evidence literally for hours. I was recently pondering about why do popularizators of science just doesn't unite together and write a comprehensive book or article about, for example Evolution. How it exactly happens, the main misconceptions floating around it, all the evidence of it, the debunking of arguments against evolution, and debunking of counterarguments and so on. Why doesn't they just make a one, comprehensive source of information , and after that only adding a new "patches" as times goes on and new knowledge pops in. If they do so, everyone, creationist or evolutionist can see the whole picture, without struggling while searching for the information for weeks or even months and years.
    So, I have also struggled a lot. And what I wanna do is to create a group on the internet to unite people. In this group they can search for evidence-based information all over the internet and then working together to make a comprehensive articles on different topics with all the evidence needed. I really believe that "two heads is better than one" (in my case, a few tens or even hundreds of heads is better than one)
    United with someone, you can reach a bigger heights. Let's ponder together how can we make destribution of information better. If you interested, then try to find me in Facebook. Tim Solnze.

    "We are all time travelers, jorneying together into the future. Let us work together to make that future the place we want to visit "

  24. To: my little Darlings,

    If life in the universe is very rare, we need to spread our life far and wide. We should be doing everything we can to colonize our own backyard at least. Let Earth be the wellspring of Life (that it's been). It needs to survive beyond any and every threat. It's our only home.

    -signed, …your ancestors.

  25. No something's wrong a big collision of two planets bumping into each other and breaking up greatly sounds unlikely to form just two objects over time. There should be a few more celestial objects and even them bumping into each other changes other circumstances. It doesnt add up

  26. One major problem with the collision theory is … Either the earth should be WAY more massive than currently is, and the moon ejected tons of it's earths mass that lost mass isn't accounted for… I.E dust clouds or rocks around our earth. Or it happened when it was still molten, but then those life giving elements would have sank beneath the crust.

  27. Hey Scientists, that know it all just from looking at absolutely nothing.
    How about this idea. Carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, you know, some the things that make up the air that we breathe and that other creatures use too.
    I bet my second child on this…God made all that and even more…like the Heavens and the Earth.
    You people are so full of it, your eyes are brown.

  28. I actually appreciated this explanation. I have read up on this (the theory) and this video made it easier, again, to understand. Kudos to simplifying it!

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