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At Live Science: 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite may reveal the origin of Earth’s water

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Ben Turner writes:

An ancient meteorite that crash-landed on a U.K. driveway may have solved the mystery of where Earth’s water came from.

The meteorite landed in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe in February 2021
The meteorite landed in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe in February 2021 (Image credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum)

The 4.6 billion-year-old space rock, which landed in front of a family home in the English town of Winchcombe in February 2021, contains water that closely resembles the chemical composition of water found on Earth — presenting a possible explanation for how our planet was seeded with the life-giving substance.   

When the rocky inner planets of the young solar system first coalesced — clotting from the hot clouds of gas and dust billowing near the sun — they were too close to our star for oceans to form. In fact, past a certain point called the frost line, no ice could escape evaporation, making the young Earth a barren and inhospitable landscape. Scientists think this changed after Earth cooled, when a barrage of icy asteroids from the outer solar system brought frozen water to our planet to melt. Now, a new analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite, published Nov. 16 in the journal Science Advances, has lent weight to this theory.

“One of the biggest questions asked of the scientific community is, how did we get here?” study co-author Luke Daly, a lecturer in planetary geoscience at the University of Glasgow, said in a statement. “This analysis on the Winchcombe meteorite gives insight into how the Earth came to have water — the source of so much life. Researchers will continue to work on this specimen for years to come, unlocking more secrets into the origins of our solar system.”

The space rock, a rare carbon-rich type called a carbonaceous chondrite, was collected just a few hours after it smashed into the ground and so remains largely uncontaminated, making it “one of the most pristine meteorites available for analysis”; it offers “a tantalising glimpse back through time to the original composition of the solar system,” said lead author Ashley King, a research fellow at the Natural History Museum in London.

To analyze the minerals and elements inside the rock, the researchers polished, heated and bombarded it with X-rays and lasers, revealing that it had come from an asteroid in orbit around Jupiter and that 11% of the meteorite’s mass was water.

The hydrogen in the asteroid’s water came in two forms — normal hydrogen and the hydrogen isotope known as deuterium, which goes to make up “heavy water”. The scientists found that the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium matched the ratio found in water on Earth, strongly implying that the meteorite’s water and our planet’s water shared a point of origin. Amino acids, the building blocks for proteins and subsequent life, were also found inside the rock.

To expand on this research, scientists may analyze other space rocks floating around the solar system, such as the asteroid Ryugu, which has also been found to contain the building blocks of life. A comprehensive survey of the solar system’s space rocks could give scientists even better insight into which rocks helped to seed early Earth, and where they came from.

Live Science

21 Replies to “At Live Science: 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite may reveal the origin of Earth’s water

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Fascinating!

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    “strongly implying that the meteorite’s water and our planet’s water shared a point of origin.”

    Stop the presses. Water originated somewhere.

    Andrew

  3. 3
    chuckdarwin says:

    Hope they had meteorite insurance to cover the damage……..

  4. 4
    Sir Giles says:

    CD: Hope they had meteorite insurance to cover the damage……..

    Sorry, acts of god are not covered under your policy.

  5. 5
    chuckdarwin says:

    SG
    Noted. Although you’d probably have to litigate the whole “acts of God” language. There must be a meteorite rider available for a reasonable additional premium. On the other hand you could call it “water damage” and avoid the whole mess….. 🙂

  6. 6
    relatd says:

    Pfft! This isn’t science. It’s not even a good joke. Meteorites filled Earth’s oceans? Silly.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    Could they charge God with littering for just dumping his waste recklessly?

  8. 8
    Querius says:

    Relatd @6,

    Pfft! This isn’t science. It’s not even a good joke.

    Really? And do you have any references supporting your assertion?

    Please note: Science is about observations and experiments, or about those who publish their observations and experiments. Science is NOT about one’s personal opinions or ideological or theological preferences.

    For example, here’s a hypothesis: The earth have started as a large blob of water that later gravitationally accumulated its high-density, possibly radioactive core.

    Here’s the evidence:

    * Scientists recently claimed to have found evidence that the earth’s water seems older than the believed age of the solar system, also that the earth was once covered in water.

    * There are many orbiting chunks of ice, the ones with highly eccentric orbits are termed “comets.”

    * Comets must have either had a relatively recent origin (water vaporizes from them at every pass close to the sun) OR there’s “a great gumball machine in space” that occasionally dumps a new comet into the solar system. This hypothetical gumball machine is termed “the Oort cloud.” It’s believed that gravitational perturbations occasionally kick a piece of ice into an eccentric orbit.

    * Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have rings around them composed of about 99% water ice.

    What do I believe? I believe God created the heavens and the earth, but we really don’t know how he did it.

    -Q

  9. 9
    Querius says:

    Seversky @7,

    Please read @6, okay?

    -Q

  10. 10
    Querius says:

    Querius @8,

    Correction: skipped the word “might.”

    For example, here’s a hypothesis: The earth might have started as a large blob of water that later gravitationally accumulated its high-density, possibly radioactive core.

    -Q

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Sev at 7: “Could they charge God with littering for just dumping his waste recklessly?”

    (Not that I agree or disagree that the self-admitted “possible explanation” for how water got on earth Is true or not), but Seversky has a nasty habit of trying his damnedest to “charge God” with all sorts of evil deeds rather that ever praising God for all the true, beautiful, good, and wonderful, things that are found in life, and creation.

    Yet, as has been pointed out to Seversky numerous times before, if God does not exist then good and evil do not exist.

    Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
    The Moral Argument – drcraigvideos – video
    https://youtu.be/OxiAikEk2vU?t=276

    As Dawkins himself honestly admitted, under atheistic materialism there is “no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

    “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
    – Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

    Without God, the atheist simply has no objective moral standard to judge whether anything in the universe may be good or evil. As C.S. Lewis, (an ex-atheist who witnessed the evils of WWI first hand), asked, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

    “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?,,,
    – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Harper San Francisco, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001, pp. 38-39.

    And although the following dramatization is a fictitious account of Einstein as a child, never-the-less, I like the clarity of the child’s answer to the professor’s claim that God had created evil. Specifically the child in the video says to the professor, “God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

    “God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
    Albert Einstein- Does God Exist? – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVRCvYFVLyQ

    The only way it would be possible for Seversky to ever ‘charge God’ with anything is if God, and hence objective morality, actually existed. In short, the atheist’s ‘argument from evil’ against God is a self-refuting argument that collapses in on itself.

    As Cornelius Van Til noted, “The non-Christian,, is like a child sitting on her father’s lap, slapping his face. She could not slap him unless he supported her.”

    “Transcendental Arguments” by John M. Frame
    Excerpt: The non-Christian, then, in Van Til’s famous illustration, is like a child sitting on her father’s lap, slapping his face. She could not slap him unless he supported her. Similarly, the non-Christian cannot carry out his rebellion against God unless God makes that rebellion possible. Contradicting God assumes an intelligible (and moral) universe and therefore a theistic one.
    https://frame-poythress.org/transcendental-arguments/

    So Seversky since you are apparently ‘morally stuck with God’ whether you like it or not, might not it be much, much, wiser for you, a insignificant speck of a human being in God’s vast universe, to meditate on, and praise God for, all the good and wonderful things that are in your life, and creation, rather than constantly trying to ‘charge God’ with some sort of moral evil?

    Philippians 4:8
    Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

    Nicole C. Mullen – My Redeemer Lives – praise music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QvX4CwSmwY

  12. 12
    chuckdarwin says:

    Relatd/6
    Sometimes I wonder where your head is at–who said anything about meteors filling the oceans? I’m just trying to find some insurance coverage for these poor souls in the UK to get their driveway fixed…..

  13. 13
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 7,

    Only you Seversky. Only you.

  14. 14
    relatd says:

    “To expand on this research, scientists may analyze other space rocks floating around the solar system, such as the asteroid Ryugu, which has also been found to contain the building blocks of life. A comprehensive survey of the solar system’s space rocks could give scientists even better insight into which rocks helped to seed early Earth, and where they came from.”

    Scientists can’t make life in the lab so finding an asteroid that “contain(s) the building blocks of life.” shows scientists aren’t doing science but living in a fantasy land. Go ahead, make the ‘building blocks of life’ in a lab and then make life. What’s the hold-up?

  15. 15
    asauber says:

    “how our planet was seeded with the life-giving substance”

    I’m kinda w/Relatd.

    Water seeds? Water generation kit? Not sure how I can take this seriously.

    Andrew

  16. 16
    Fasteddious says:

    There being various places that water resides in the solar system, one can imagine it accumulated on early planet Earth from multiple sources: asteroids, yes, but also comets, water sweated out of the planet, decay of organic compounds bubbling out of the Earth, and who knows, maybe hydrogen in solar wind (or residual gases around the sun) captured by the earth and oxidized in reactions by UV light. To suggest it all (or mostly) comes from asteroids seems a bit of a stretch. Previous papers have pointed to mostly comets.
    I liked the “water that closely resembles the chemical composition of water found on Earth” part, as if the ratio of D to H is a definitive test for what happened 4.6 billion years ago. Did they also compare the ratio of stable oxygen isotopes in the water, I wonder?

  17. 17
    awstar says:

    #16
    Fasteddious

    There being various places that water resides in the solar system, one can imagine it accumulated on early planet Earth from multiple sources:

    The water in the meteor obviously came from an exploded planet.

    Astronomers have tried to describe the exploded planet, not realizing they were standing on the remaining 97 ±1% of it — too close to see it.

    Some water and complex organic matter that were formerly on the Earth are now in asteroids and comets. [See “Rosetta Mission” on pages 319.] No “sharp line” separates asteroids and comets.

    The hydroplate theory provides the details. As the flood began, the fountains of the great deep launched muddy water and some organic material from Earth. In the cold vacuum of space, about half of that water quickly evaporated, and the remainder froze. Later, gravity (as explained beginning on page 321) formed asteroids and comets from some of that material. Since the flood, almost all ice on asteroid surfaces has sublimated (vaporized), leaving behind a crust of dirt that protects the deeper ice within. If internal ice is suddenly exposed by an impact or by fracturing, water vapor will briefly vent and form a temporary atmosphere for the asteroid. Eventually, that water vapor will either escape or become frost on the asteroid’s surface. Water-ice has been discovered on asteroids Themis and Cybele.

    PREDICTION 42: Water-ice on asteroids will be rich in deuterium.

    — From Walt Brown’s “In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood”

    comments about Walt Brown’s science not being real science — unlike all the other speculation posted above will be appearing in 3 – 2 – 1….

  18. 18
    Latemarch says:

    Water, coming right up.

    Genesis 1:1-2

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    Speaking of water, apparently there’s more water deep inside the earth than the relatively thin layer of water covering most of the earth:

    Scientists Just Discovered A Vast Hidden Ocean Inside Earth
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vj0zL1SZzNY

    -Q

  20. 20
    Sir Giles says:

    Thanks for the video Querius. I usually don’t watch linked videos, but this one was interesting.

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    Sir Giles @20,

    Glad you found it interesting. There’s so much we don’t know, so we really need to keep an open mind. Here’s some additional surprising information:

    https://www.science.org/content/article/ancient-earth-was-water-world

    -Q

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