Research, Technology

For the first time, steam has been discovered in the asteroid belt - this explains the appearance of water on Earth

Our planet is unique not only in the solarsystem, but possibly in the entire universe, since for many years of observation no signs of intelligent life have yet been found. The emergence of life on Earth would not have been possible without an abundance of water, but to this day we do not know exactly where it came from. All existing versions are only an assumption. To get a more accurate answer, as well as to learn more about other planetary systems, it will help to understand how water was distributed in the solar system. Therefore, scientists have been carefully studying for many years where and in what quantities it is present. Scientists managed to make an important discovery recently thanks to the James Webb telescope, it points to a possible source of water on the planet.

Scientists have discovered evidence of the presence of ice in the asteroid belt

How comets in the asteroid belt affected the Earth

Scientists have long believed that comets canexist only in the Kuiper belt and the Oort Cloud, that is, in the outskirts of the solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune. As you know, ice quickly evaporates when heated, which is why scientists assumed that comets could not exist only at a great distance from the star.

When comets approach the sun, they beginevaporate (sublimate) steam and gases, resulting in a coma. We talked more about what a comet is in an article on comet C / 2023 A3, which this year can be seen with the naked eye. For some comets, the approach to the Sun becomes generally the last, since under the influence of high temperature they are destroyed.

However, in the middle of the 2000s,comets that are located in the outer part of the asteroid belt, that is, at a relatively small distance from the Sun. Recall that the asteroid belt is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. According to one version, the asteroid belt is the fragments of the collapsed planet Phaethon.

Until recently, scientists had no proof that there is ice in the asteroid belt.

However, most astronomers nowadhere to the version that the asteroid belt is a “frozen embryo” of the planet, which was not destined to form into a planet 4.6 billion years ago. That is, all these fragments gathered to form into one planet, but this did not happen.

The first comet in the asteroid belt was238P/Read, which was opened in 2005. Subsequently, other similar comets were discovered. Scientists suggest that it was thanks to the comet “bombardment” from the asteroid belt that oceans arose on Earth. Why were comets from here? The thing is that on comets from other regions of the solar system, water differs in isotopic composition from water on our planet. By the way, as we said earlier, most of the water on Earth turned out to be older than the solar system.

Comet 238P/Read was first discovered in the asteroid belt in 2005.

Asteroid belt comet covered in ice

Despite the fact that since the discovery of comets inmore than fifteen years have passed in the asteroid belt, all this time scientists could not detect water vapor here. That is, in fact, there was no confirmation that ice could be stored in this region of the solar system. All the detected characteristics of comets are not in themselves evidence of the presence of water ice on them.

The proof, as we said above, succeededget just now thanks to the James Webb telescope. We are used to the fact that this telescope looks deep into space and finds the most ancient stars in the universe. However, in fact, it is also useful for studying the solar system.

As reported in the journal Nature, withWith a near-infrared spectrograph, scientists were able to capture and analyze the spectrum of light that was reflected from the haze that appeared around the comet at the time of perihelion. That is, the observations occurred at the moment when the comet reached the point of its orbit closest to the Sun. As it turns out, Comet Reed does emit gas and water vapor. Now there is no doubt that ice is present in the asteroid belt.

James Webb telescope detects steam around Comet Reed

Comet Reed Mystery

Watching Comet Reed, along with water, scientistsdiscovered something unusual on it - carbon dioxide was completely absent in the emitted gas. All comets that have been observed so far have contained 10 to 20% carbon dioxide in the emitted gas.

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Scholars have two theories about thisanomalies. It is possible that the comet once had carbon dioxide, but over time it completely evaporated. According to another version, the comet could have formed in that part of the solar system where there was no carbon dioxide initially due to the high temperature. Scientists hope to get more information through further research and eventually unravel the mystery of Comet Reed.