December 10, 2018

The Mysterious Origins of Earth's Water

“If Earth didn’t have water, it wouldn’t have life, and the universe would be sorely lacking in dank memes. But exactly how water sprung up on this planet has always been a perpetual mystery. Earth didn’t just magically appear out of the ether covered in oceans upon oceans. Water has an origin story, and scientists have never completely agreed on what that story is.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Arizona State University researchers suggest that water on Earth originated from material brought by asteroids, assisted by some leftover gas strewn about after the sun’s formation.

This is certainly far from the first time people have suggested water as we know it (and drink) it has an extraterrestrial origin. Historically, the easiest explanation has been that all of Earth’s water came from asteroids that impacted the Earth during the early days of its 4.6 billion year life. Why? Water from Earth shares the same chemical signatures as water found in asteroids—specifically, the ratio of deuterium (a heavy hydrogen isotope) to normal hydrogen. And previous experiments have shown that, in spite of all the heat and energy created by these massively powerful collisions, that water could have been preserved as it found itself on the yet-to-be-blue planet.”

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