Climatic conditions on early earth similar to current ones

December 1st, 2011 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 1 (IANS) The atmosphere on our planet just 500 million years after its creation was not a methane-filled wasteland as believed, but surprisingly much closer to the current climatic conditions.

Scientists at the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have used the oldest minerals to reconstruct the atmospheric conditions present on earth very soon after its birth.

The findings are the first direct evidence of what the atmosphere of the planet was like soon after its formation, the journal Nature reports.

“We can now say with some certainty that many scientists studying the origins of life on earth simply picked the wrong atmosphere,” said Bruce Watson, professor of science at Rensselaer who led the study.

They have implications for our understanding of how and when life began on this planet and could begin elsewhere in the universe. The research was funded by NASA, according to a Rensselaer statement.

For decades, scientists believed that the atmosphere of early earth was highly reduced, meaning that oxygen was greatly limited.

Such oxygen-poor conditions would have resulted in an atmosphere filled with noxious methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.

To date, there remain widely held theories and studies of how life on earth may have been built out of this deadly atmosphere cocktail.

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