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Fire sweeping through inner solar system may have burned up Earth's carbon.

Byline: ANI

London, January 20 (ANI): Scientists have attributed the mysterious carbon deficit on our planet to fire sweeping through the inner solar system that may have scorched away much of the carbon from Earth and the other inner planets.

Though our planet supports carbon-based life, it has a mysterious carbon deficit.

The element is thousands of times more abundant in comets in the outer solar system than on Earth, relative to the amount of silicon each body contains.

The sun is similarly rich in carbon.

"There really wasn't that much carbon that made it onto Earth compared to what was available," said Edwin Bergin of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The conventional explanation for the deficit argues that in the inner region of the dust disc where Earth formed, temperatures soared above 1800 kelvin, enough for carbon to boil away.

But observations of developing solar systems suggest that at Earth's distance from the sun the temperature would be too cool to vaporise carbon dust.

Now, according to a report in New Scientist, a team of astronomers says that fire is to blame.

Hot oxygen atoms in the dusty disc would have readily combined with carbon, burning it to produce carbon dioxide and other gases, according to Jeong-Eun Lee of Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues, including Bergin.

Any solid carbon in the inner solar system would have been destroyed within a few years, suggests the calculation by the researchers.

Supporting the theory is the fact that carbon abundance in the asteroid belt surrounding the inner planets increases the farther away you get from the sun.

The carbon that Earth now contains must have been delivered later by asteroids and comets that formed beyond the reach of the early fire, according to the researchers.

According to Bergin, this may have had a hidden benefit, in the form of chemical reactions in the outer solar system transforming simple carbon compounds into more complex molecules such as amino acids, which are key ingredients of life. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Jan 20, 2010
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