Research, Technology

4.6 billion-year-old meteorite could reveal the origin of water on Earth

The emergence of life on Earth and in general those conditionsthat arose on our planet, we owe it to water and certain combinations of circumstances due to which it condensed. If this had not happened, the planet could forever remain a "steam boiler". But where did such a large amount of water come from? There are different theories about this, and it is possible that many of them are correct, since there could be several sources. According to one of the most popular versions, ice asteroids brought water to our planet. A recent study of a 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite that fell on the territory of the English city of Winchcombe in February 2021 confirms this theory.

The Winchcombe meteorite that fell to earth in 2021 told scientists where the water on Earth came from

How did water appear on earth?

When our planet was just formed, on it,according to scientists, there could be no water. She was too hot for that. Therefore, any water would instantly evaporate. Accordingly, initially our planet had an absolutely lifeless landscape. But the situation began to change when the Earth began to cool.

Asteroids may have brought water to Earth

Just at this time, according to experts, onthe planet was hit by asteroids consisting of ice. They melted, resulting in the formation of oceans on Earth. But, if this is true, then there must be more asteroids in space that contain water. Moreover, the chemical composition of water should be similar to our terrestrial water. Therefore, scientists have long been looking for such water in the solar system.

Why is the Winchcomb meteorite unique?

It would seem that meteorites regularly fall to Earth,and there is no sensation in it. But Winchcombe, which fell last year, is not like the others, so it is of great interest to scientists. The thing is that the stone was taken for analysis just a few hours after it crashed into the Earth. As a result, it is one of the most “uncontaminated” and not “modified” specimens to study. That is, its composition has not practically changed under the influence of the earth's environment.

Why is it important?Carbonaceous chondrites are very susceptible to environmental changes. As the researchers explain, extraterrestrial signatures can be changed within a few days. Simply put, after the stone lies on the Earth, the information is distorted so much that it is no longer possible to draw objective conclusions regarding water and other data.

Asteroid Winchcombe was taken for analysis a few hours after the fall

In addition, age matters a lot.meteorite. The stone is, in fact, the same age as the solar system. Therefore, the Winchcomb meteorite, according to scientists, represents a nearly intact window into the geological history of primitive asteroids, as well as the chemical and dynamical evolution of volatiles in the early solar system. That is, it allows you to find out what was the original composition of the solar system.

Did asteroids bring life to Earth?

Scientists performed a series of analyzes of the meteorite,using various modern technologies for this. Moreover, it was previously carefully polished so that any distortions could be eliminated. As a result, as reported in the publication Science Advances, the authors of the work managed to find out that the stone is part of an asteroid formed in the outer part of the solar system and orbiting Jupiter.

The meteorite is a carbonaceous chondrite.It contains water, which occupies 11% of the mass. Hydrogen in the water of the asteroid is contained in two forms - ordinary hydrogen and the hydrogen isotope deuterium. The so-called “heavy water”, that is, deuterium oxide, consists of the latter. The study also showed that the ratio of hydrogen and deuterium in meteorite water is the same as in terrestrial water. This suggests that the water contained in the meteorite and the water not on the Earth have a common origin.

Life on Earth, like water, could bring meteorites

But that's not all.Amino acids, the building blocks for proteins and subsequent life, were also found in the meteorite. As we discussed earlier, RNAs can make proteins from amino acids. Where did RNA come from? According to some scientists, RNA, or rather the nitrogenous bases of which they are composed, could also be brought to Earth with meteorites.

Be sure to subscribe to the YANDEX.ZEN CHANNEL, where truly exciting and exciting materials await you.

So, summing up, we can say that waterreally could have been “brought” to Earth by meteorites. But, as mentioned above, this does not mean that there were no other sources of it on our planet. It is possible that some of the water originated directly on Earth thanks to the solar wind. In the same way, this water could appear on asteroids.