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U. of Colorado study shows early Earth atmosphere hydrogen-rich, favorable to life

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In 1953, University of Chicago graduate student Stanley Miller sent an electrical current through a chamber containing methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water, yielding amino acids, considered to be the building blocks of life. "I think this study makes the experiments by Miller and others relevant again," Toon said. "In this new scenario, organics can be produced efficiently in the early atmosphere, leading us back to the organic-rich soup-in-the-ocean concept."

In the new CU-Boulder scenario, it is a hydrogen and CO2-dominated atmosphere that leads to the production of organic molecules, not the methane and ammonia atmosphere used in Miller's experiment, Toon said.

Tian and other team members said the research effort will continue. The duration of the hydrogen-rich atmosphere on early Earth still is unknown, they said.


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Contact: Owen Toon
btoon@lasp.colorado.edu
303-492-1534
University of Colorado at Boulder
7-Apr-2005


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