Solar Storm - Life on Earth
An undated artist's rendering depicts a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere in this NASA handout released November 5, 2015. Reuters/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

If NASA scientists are to be believed, violent solar storms helped life to prosper on Earth four billion years ago. The scientists found evidence of violent solar storms that bombarded Earth with solar materials and radiation. They interacted with Earth’s magnetic field and created favourable conditions for life to thrive on our planet. All this happened approximately four billion years ago, and findings of the study will shed new light on the origins of life on Earth.

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, analysed an adolescent sun that was constantly spewing solar radiation and materials via solar storms. A combination of factors helped create the right conditions for life on Earth. During that time, the sun’s surface was highly unpredictable and superflares were commonplace and a daily occurrence.

Interestingly, four billion years ago, the sun shone with only three quarters of its present day brightness and was not powerful enough to warm the entire Earth. NASA’s study explored how and why our planet’s atmosphere was warm enough for liquid water that would allow simple molecules to form and also allow the planet to incubate life.

According to lead author of the study, Vladimir Airapetian, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as Earth during that time received only 70 percent of sun’s energy than what it is receiving today, the planet was likely an ice ball. Yet, geological evidence suggests that it was warm with liquid water.

Therefore, scientists believe that solar storms may have been crucial for warming Earth and making it favourable for life. Thus, the sun provided our planet with crucial energy despite its faintness. This is known as the Faint Young Sun Paradox.

The Faint Young Sun Paradox explained.

Source: YouTube/NASA Goddard

NASA created a timeline of how sun evolved and affected Earth with the help of the data provided by its exoplanet-hunting mission Kepler.

“Our calculations show that you would have regularly seen auroras all the way down in South Carolina. And as the particles from the space weather travelled down the magnetic field lines, they would have slammed into abundant nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. Changing the atmosphere's chemistry turns out to have made all the difference for life on Earth,” Airapetian explained in a NASA statement.

The influx of solar particles did more than just warm Earth’s atmosphere. They provided the energy to turn simple molecules into complex chemicals, essential for seeding life.