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Faint Young Sun Paradox: Why Young Earth Did Not Freeze Despite Dimmer Sun

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The Faint Young Sun Paradox may help explain why the young Earth did not freeze despite the sun being dimmer than what it is now.

In a new study, NASA's Kepler telescope was able to show samples of so-called "superflares." These huge explosions are limited nowadays and Earthlings may only see it every after a century or so.

Faint Young Sun Paradox

The Faint Young Sun Paradox pertains to the obvious discrepancy between the liquid water observed in the early existence of the Earth and the expectation that the sun has 70 percent less energy than it has at present.

"That means Earth should have been an icy ball. Instead, geological evidence says it was a warm globe with liquid water," says lead author and NASA solar scientist Vladimir Airapetian. He adds that their work presents that solar storms could have been the reason for Earth's warming.

Why The Earth Did Not Freeze

Although the sun still generates flares, these are not really great or frequent. Aside from that, the Earth currently has a powerful magnetic field that prevents a large portion of space weather to enter the planet. The ancient Earth, on the other hand, had a weaker magnetic field.

Apart from the magnetic field, the past and present conditions of the Earth's atmosphere are very different. For one, molecular nitrogen (two nitrogen atoms fused into one molecule) content made up 90 percent of the planet's ancient atmosphere, compared to only 78 percent at present.

As energetic substances crash into these molecules, the nitrogen atoms split up and in turn, collide with carbon dioxide. The result is carbon dioxide separated into carbon monoxide and oxygen.

The free nitrogen and oxygen combine and form nitrous oxide, which is considered to be a strong greenhouse gas and is said to be 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the calculations of the researchers, if the ancient Earth's atmosphere had 1 percent less nitrous oxide as it had carbon dioxide, it would exude enough warmth to support liquid water.

Energy For Life

Aside from warmth, the new discovery suggests that the particles may have been enough energy to support complex materials required for life to exist.

While sufficient energy is needed to support life, too much of it could also be bad. The atmosphere of the planet can be placed in danger with constant and powerful solar eruptions. Understanding the balance mechanisms in this field of study is vital because it helps experts identify which planets can support life.

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