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Atmospheric nitrogen when life evolved on Earth

Gebauer, Stefanie and Grenfell, John Lee and Lammer, H and de Vera, Jean Pierre Paul and Spross, L. and Airapetian, Vladimir and Sinnhuber, M and Rauer, H (2020) Atmospheric nitrogen when life evolved on Earth. Astrobiology, 20 (12). Mary Ann Liebert Inc.. doi: 10.1089/ast.2019.2212. ISSN 1531-1074.

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Official URL: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2019.2212


The amount of nitrogen (N2) present in the atmosphere when life evolved on our planet is central for under-standing the production of prebiotic molecules and, hence, is a fundamental quantity to constrain. Estimates of atmospheric molecular nitrogen partial surface pressures during the Archean, however, widely vary in the literature. In this study, we apply a model that combines newly gained insights into atmospheric escape, magma ocean duration, and outgassing evolution. Results suggest <420 mbar surface molecular nitrogen at the time when life originated, which is much lower compared with estimates in previous works and hence could impact our understanding of the production rate of prebiotic molecules such as hydrogen cyanide. Our revised values provide new input for atmospheric chamber experiments that simulate prebiotic chemistry on the early Earth.Our results that assume negligible nitrogen escape rates are in agreement with research based on solidified gas bubbles and the oxidation of iron in micrometeorites at 2.7 Gyr ago, which suggest that the atmospheric pressure was probably less than half the present-day value. Our results contradict previous studies that assume N2partial surface pressures during the Archean were higher than those observed today and suggest that, if the N2 partial pressure were low in the Archean, it would likely be low in the Hadean as well.Furthermore, our results imply a biogenic nitrogen fixation rate from 9 to 14 Teragram N2per year (Tg N2/year), which is consistent with modern marine biofixation rates and, hence, indicate an oceanic origin of this fixation process

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/135918/
Document Type:Article
Title:Atmospheric nitrogen when life evolved on Earth
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iD
Gebauer, StefanieStefanie.Gebauer (at) dlr.deUNSPECIFIED
Grenfell, John LeeLee.Grenfell (at) dlr.deUNSPECIFIED
de Vera, Jean Pierre Pauljean-pierre.devera (at) dlr.deUNSPECIFIED
Spross, L.Spa. Res. Inst., GrazUNSPECIFIED
Airapetian, VladimirNASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, MD 20771, Maryland, USAUNSPECIFIED
Sinnhuber, MKarlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Rauer, Hheike.rauer (at) dlr.deUNSPECIFIED
Journal or Publication Title:Astrobiology
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
DOI :10.1089/ast.2019.2212
Publisher:Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Space Exploration
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R EW - Space Exploration
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Project PLATO (old)
Location: Berlin-Adlershof
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Planetary Research > Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres
Institute of Planetary Research > Leitungsbereich PF
Institute of Planetary Research > Planetary Laboratories
Deposited By: Gebauer, Stefanie
Deposited On:11 Nov 2020 13:58
Last Modified:11 Nov 2020 13:58

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