Where Did Earth’s Water Come From? Volcanic Rocks Unlock The Mystery

Posted: Nov 13 2015, 8:11pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 13 2015, 8:29pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Where Did Earth’s Water Came From?  Volcanic Rocks Unlock the Mystery
Olivine (A) hosts melt inclusions (B) containing tiny amounts of water from Earth's deep mantle. University of Hawaii Manoa

Water was present when the Earth was formed. It did not arrive via any asteroid or comet.

For years, the exact origin of Earth’s water remained a mystery. Scientists were uncertain whether water was present at the formation of the planet or if it arrived later, riding on an asteroid or comet that smashed into the Earth.

But it seems scientists have now worked out what exactly happened. A team of researchers from University of Hawaii Monao probed into the rocks collected from Baffin Island in Canada and found that the water on Earth was present since the very beginning. No other celestial object brought it to our planet.

Researchers used advance ion microprobe instrument to look at the tiny pockets of glass inside the volcanic rocks and detected the amount of water within. The ratio of deuterium, the isotope of hydrogen, in the water provided new clues to the origin of water.

The ratios of hydrogen to deuterium differ from one planetary body to another and therefore it can hint on whether the water arrived from somewhere or already existed on Earth.

“We found that the water had very little deuterium, which strongly suggests that it was not carried to Earth after it had formed or cooled,” explained cosmochemist Dr. Lydia Hallis.  

“Instead water molecules were likely carried on the dust that existed in a disk around our Sun before the planets formed. Over time, this water-rich dust was slowly drawn together to form our planet. Even though a good deal of water would have been lost at the surface through evaporation in the heat of the formation process, enough survived to form the world’s water.”

Why the rocks from Baffin Island were chosen for this examination, researchers also revealed. The volcanic rocks found in the Baffin Island are made of 4.5 billion year old material from Earth’s deep mantle and can provide the best possible information about the origin of Earth and history of things related to it.

"The Baffin Island rocks were collected back in 1985, and scientists have had a lot of time to analyze them in the intervening years. As a result of their efforts, we know that they contain a component from Earth's deep mantle,” Hallis said.

“"On their way to the surface, these rocks were never affected by sedimentary input from crustal rocks, and previous research shows their source region has remained untouched since Earth's formation. Essentially, they are some of the most primitive rocks we've ever found on Earth's surface, and so the water they contain gives us an invaluable insight into Earth's early history and where its water came from.”

Scientists are claiming it an exciting discovery and are looking forward for further research in this area.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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