Most of the nitrogen appeared on Earth from a protoplanetary disk

Nitrogen is a volatile element that, like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, creates conditions for life on Earth.

If we find out where it came from on our planet, we will understand how protoplanetary disks develop on other planets.

The isotopic signatures of nitrogen in iron meteorites indicate that the Earth likely received nitrogen not only from the region beyond Jupiter's orbit, but also from dust in the inner protoplanetary disk.

Researchers previously believed that the interiorThe solar system, within Jupiter's orbit, was too hot for nitrogen and other volatiles to condense as solids. This means that the volatiles in the inner disk were in the gas phase.

Damanvir Greval, author of the work

Now scientists have analyzed non-volatile elementsin meteorites, including iron meteorites that fall to Earth from time to time to show that dust in the inner and outer solar system had completely different isotopic compositions.

Researchers have found a distinct isotopicthe nitrogen signature in the dust that was around the protoplanet for about 300,000 years after the formation of the solar system. All of the iron meteorites from the inner disk contained a lower concentration of the nitrogen-15 isotope, while the meteorites from the outer disk were rich in nitrogen-15.

This suggests that during the first few million years, the protoplanetary disk split into two reservoirs: the outer one, rich in the nitrogen-15 isotope, and the inner, rich in nitrogen-14.

This means that, contrary to current understanding, there were already volatiles in the modern rocky planets, including Earth.

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