Earth’s water could have interstellar origin, study says


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Water is likely one of the main constructing blocks of life and Earth has an abundance of it, as 71 % of its floor is roofed by water, largely on account of its expansive oceans. Now a brand new examine theorizes that Earth’s water might have been carried to our planet from historic comets, tens of millions of years in the past.

The examine, revealed in Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters, checked out information from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and located that there have been similarities to the water contained on the comet Wirtanen and the water on Earth.

“We’ve recognized an enormous reservoir of Earth-like water within the outer reaches of the photo voltaic system,” mentioned the examine’s lead writer, Darek Lis, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a press release. “Water was essential for the event of life as we all know it. We not solely need to perceive how Earth’s water was delivered, but in addition if this course of might work in different planetary techniques.”


The examine’s co-author, Dominique Bockelée-Morvan, a scientist on the Paris Observatory and the French Nationwide Middle for Scientific Analysis, mentioned that it is the first time researchers are capable of “relate the heavy-to-regular water ratio of all comets to a single issue.”

Often known as 46P, the Wirtanen comet was found by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen in January 1948.

Illustration of a comet, ice grains and Earth’s oceans. SOFIA found clues in Comet Wirtanen’s ice grains that suggest water in comets and Earth’s oceans may share a common origin. (Credit: NASA/SOFIA/L. Cook/L. Proudfit)

Illustration of a comet, ice grains and Earth’s oceans. SOFIA discovered clues in Comet Wirtanen’s ice grains that counsel water in comets and Earth’s oceans might share a typical origin. (Credit score: NASA/SOFIA/L. Cook dinner/L. Proudfit)

The researchers discovered that the water contained an additional neutron inside one of many hydrogen atoms, chemically referred to as HDO; common water is chemically referred to as H2O. The authors concluded that if comets comprise the identical ratio of water varieties as Earth’s oceans, they could share a typical origin.

“We might must rethink how we examine comets as a result of water launched from the ice grains seems to be a greater indicator of the general water ratio than the water launched from floor ice,” Bockelée-Morvan added.

SOFIA is a NASA lab aboard a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner that is ready to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It’s managed by NASA’s Ames Analysis Middle and is a joint mission between NASA and the German Aerospace Middle, DLR.


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