Meteorites Brought Water To Earth Much Earlier Than Thought

Posted: Jan 21 2018, 11:48am CST | by , Updated: Jan 21 2018, 11:51am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Meteorites Brought Water to Earth Much Earlier Than Thought
The image of basaltic meteorite named North-West Africa (NWA) 7034. Credit: NASA

New study says that water was carried by meteorites during the first two million years of the solar system

Water covers about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, but its exact origin is still something of a mystery. One prevailing theory says that water did not exist at the formation of Earth and could have been brought to our planet by meteorites.

Now, a new study goes one step further and suggests that meteorites may have delivered water to Earth during the first two million years of the solar system.

“We're looking at as many meteorite parent bodies as possible right now to figure out where they were in the early solar system and how much water they had," said Adam Sarafian from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We're trying to build a map of the very early inner solar system. Where was the water, where was it going and where did it come from?”

For the study, researchers examined rare basaltic meteorites called angrites and measured the volume of volatile elements like hydrogen and carbon in them, which eventually helped researchers calculate the water content of their planetary body.

Angrites meteorites formed in the inner solar system very early, roughly 4.56 billion years ago. Analysis suggests that the water composition of angrites' parent body was similar to that of Earth. It means that both the water found in angrites and early Earth’s water came from the same source.

Researchers also suggest that the parent body of angrites was almost as big as the asteroid Vesta, which is about 326 miles wide and likely contained about 20 percent of Earth’s current water.

“It’s a fairly simple assumption to say that Earth’s water at least started accreting to Earth extremely early, before the planet was fully formed,” said Sarafian. “This means that when the planet cooled enough so that liquid water could be stable at the surface, there was already water here.”

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