The Propitious Role of Solar Energetic Particles in the Origin of Life.
We carry out 3-D numerical simulations to assess the penetration and bombardment effects of Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs), i.e. high-energy particle bursts during large flares and superflares, on ancient and current Mars. We demonstrate that the deposition of SEPs is non-uniform at the planetary surface, and that the corresponding energy flux is lower than other sources postulated to have influenced the origin of life. Nevertheless, SEPs may have been capable of facilitating the synthesis of a wide range of vital organic molecules (e.g. nucleobases and amino acids). Owing to the relatively high efficiency of these pathways, the overall yields might be comparable to (or even exceed) the values predicted for some conventional sources such as electrical discharges and exogenous delivery by meteorites. We also suggest that SEPs could have played a role in enabling the initiation of lightning. A notable corollary of our work is that SEPs may constitute an important mechanism for prebiotic synthesis on exoplanets around M-dwarfs, thereby mitigating the deficiency of biologically active ultraviolet radiation on these planets. Although there are several uncertainties associated with (exo)planetary environments and prebiotic chemical pathways, our study illustrates that SEPs represent a potentially important factor in understanding the origin of life.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.05781
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