I wanted to make a subtitle for this post: Finally, A Post About Science and Space but not NASA. This one is about the findings at the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for short. Their long name, although it’s only a rumor, is the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Amazing Scientific Findings That Help Usher In A New Era of Understanding Where We Came From and Hence Where We Are Going.
It has always been hypothesized that our atmosphere was methane filled and nasty, uninhabitable, and unfit for life, and as that may have been true, the uninhabitable part, at least on the surface of the Earth, scientists have shown in a paper published this week that it was much the same as it is now. The significance of this can help us understand how life on earth started and answer the eons old question of “where did we come from?”
I do not aim to bore you with technical details, but basically they figured this out by taking a very old rock, a rock called a zircon, some are as old as the Earth itself, and they measured how much of a certain metal it contained. The metal, Cerium, exists in two states, one state more highly oxidized than the other, meaning it has reacted with another element and lost electrons in the process. The more highly oxidized Cerium the zircon contains is an indicator of the atmosphere at the time.
However, this runs contrary to the idea that early life would have a hard time…starting, for lack of a better term, with the current cocktail of atmospheric gases we reside in today. The highly methane concentrated atmosphere would be better as a catalyst for amino acids and DNA.
I am confused.
Also, in another disappointing twist, this did have something to do with NASA: it was funded by NASA.
The journey to talk about space, science, rockets and boosters without mentioning NASA continues…stay tuned….
Information found at Astrobiology Magazine. <http://astrobio.net/pressrelease/4373/earths-early-atmosphere>