Particle accelerator reveals these special solar flares sparked life on Earth | Tech News

Particle accelerator reveals these special solar flares sparked life on Earth

While solar flares are capable of causing destruction to sophisticated equipment like satellites, a strong superflare could have sparked life on Earth, according to a recent study.

| Updated on: May 25 2023, 17:24 IST
NASA: From Solar Winds, Solar Flares to CME, check how solar phenomena impact Earth
Solar flares
1/5 The harrowing thing is that it will not just be China that would be affected by such a devastating solar storm. (NASA)
Solar flares
2/5 Solar Flares: Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are rated on the basis of their intensity with the highest being an X-rated solar flare. It can cause power and radio blackouts and are responsible for the stunning phenomenon known to us as the Northern Lights or Auroras. (NASA/SDO)
Solar flares
3/5 Coronal Mass Ejections (CME): CMEs are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. CME occurs during the solar cycle and is at peak in the middle of the cycle. (NASA)
Solar flares
4/5 Solar Winds: Solar winds are high speed winds coming from holes in the Sun called Coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the surface of the Sun. If these solar winds prevail near the solar equator, they can cause impact on Earth, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
Solar flares
5/5 Solar Energetic Particles: Solar energetic particles are emitted from the Sun during Coronal Mass Ejections. These are charged particles; hence they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth and if they pass the magnetic fields near Earth, they have an impact. (NASA)
Solar flares
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Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun due to CMEs that hurl charged photon particles towards Earth. (Unsplash)

Earth is being continuously bombarded by solar storms, solar flares, and other solar phenomena since its very birth billions of years ago. The trend continues as we have seen multiple X-class solar flare eruptions, G3-class solar storms, super-charged CME clouds, and solar winds wreak havoc on our planet. Although this solar activity is dangerous and can cause significant damage to power grids, communication networks, and satellites, it might have also been the one thing that gave the gift of life to Earth. Yes, solar activity may well be behind the emergence of life on Earth, a recent study has suggested.

This shocking revelation was published on April 28 in the journal Life.

Life on Earth

Scientists have found that amino acids and carboxylic acids, which are the building blocks of life, are produced when charged particles from solar wind and gases present in Earth's early atmosphere combine. Previously, it was believed that Earth's early atmosphere heavily consisted of ammonia and methane but later, it was discovered that carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen were present in much larger amounts than methane and ammonia. Therefore, it would have taken a lot more energy than just lightning to break down these particles.

These claims are further supported by a 2016 study published in the Nature Geoscience journal which suggested that superflares erupted from the Sun's surface every 3 to 10 days during the first 100 million years of the Sun. For the unaware, superflares are extremely strong bursts of solar particles which are up to 10 thousand times more powerful than normal solar flares.

How the study was conducted

The authors of the study used a particle accelerator to come to the conclusion that cosmic particles from high-energy superflares could have stimulated life on Earth. Kensei Kobayashi, a professor of chemistry at Yokohama National University in Japan, said in a statement, “ Most investigators ignore galactic cosmic rays because they require specialized equipment, like particle accelerators. I was fortunate enough to have access to several of them near our facilities."

The solar wind would have bombarded Earth's atmosphere with charged particles that interacted with atmospheric gases to form amino acids and carboxylic acids. When these molecules combined, they could have formed the first proteins that are essential for life on Earth.

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First Published Date: 25 May, 17:24 IST