New Insight Into Interstellar Organic Matter and the Origin of Water on the Earth

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Organic matter in nebula might be the source of terrestrial water. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Scientists have actually discovered the interstellar raw material might produce a plentiful supply of water by heating, recommending that natural matter might be the source of terrestrial water.

There stays a variety of secrets on our world consisting of the evasive origin of water on the earth. Active research studies recommended that terrestrial water had actually been provided by icy comets or meteorites including hydrous silicates that originated from outside the “snow line” — the border beyond which ice can condense due the low temperature levels. More current research studies, nevertheless, have actually offered observations opposing to cometary origin theory, yet still stopping working to recommend possible alternatives for the source of terrestrial water. “Until now, much less attention has been paid to organic matter, comparing to ices and silicates, even though there is an abundance inside the snow line,” states planetary researcher Akira Kouchi at Hokkaido University.

In the existing research study released in Scientific Reports, a group of researchers led by Akira Kouchi shows that heating of the interstellar raw material at heat might yield plentiful water and oil. This recommends that water might be produced inside the snow line, with no contribution of comets or meteorites provided from outside the snow line


Organic matter analog producing water and oil by heating. Round water beads were extremely formed at roughly 350 °C. Credit: Hideyuki Nakano et al., Scientific Reports, May 8, 2020

As an initial step, the scientists made an analog of raw material in interstellar molecular clouds utilizing chemical reagents. To make the analog, they described analytical information of interstellar organics made by irradiating UV on a mix including H2O, CO, and NH3, which imitated its natural artificial procedure. Then, they slowly heated up the raw material analog from 24 to 400 ℃ under a forced condition in a diamond anvil cell. The sample was consistent till 100 ℃, however was separated into 2 stages at 200 ℃. At roughly 350 ℃, the development of water beads ended up being apparent and the sizes of the beads increased as the temperature level increased. At 400 ℃, in addition to water beads, black oil was produced.

Interstellar Organic Matter Analog

The interstellar raw material analog producing water beads and oil as the heating temperature level increased. At 102 °C, analog of raw material was consistent. At 350 °C, water beads were plainly seen. At 400 °C, black oil was seemingly produced. (Hideyuki Nakano et al., Scientific Reports, May 8, 2020). Credit: Hideyuki Nakano et al., Scientific Reports, May 8, 2020

The group performed comparable explores bigger quantities of raw material, which likewise yielded water and oil. Their analysis of absorption spectra exposed that the primary element of the liquid item was distilled water. Additionally, chemical analysis of produced oil revealed comparable attributes to the normal petroleum discovered underneath the earth.

Oil and Water Produced

After heating at 400 °C, analog of interstellar raw material plainly separated into 2 layers of oil (black) and water (yellow-colored transparent) (a: prior to heating, b: after heating at 400 °C). Credit: Hideyuki Nakano et al., Scientific Reports, May 8, 2020

“Our results show that the interstellar organic matter inside the snow line is a potential source of water on the earth. Moreover, the abiotic oil formation we observed suggests more extensive sources of petroleum for the ancient Earth than previously thought,” states Akira Kouchi. “Future analyses of raw material in samples from the asteroid Ryugu, which Japan’s asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 will revive later on this year, ought to advance our understanding of the origin of terrestrial water.”

Akira Kouchi

Akira Kouchi of Hokkaido University. Credit: Hokkaido University

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Reference: “Precometary organic matter: A hidden reservoir of water inside the snow line” by Hideyuki Nakano, Naoki Hirakawa, Yasuhiro Matsubara, Shigeru Yamashita, Takuo Okuchi, Kenta Asahina, Ryo Tanaka, Noriyuki Suzuki, Hiroshi Naraoka, Yoshinori Takano, Shogo Tachibana, Tetsuya Hama, Yasuhiro Oba, Yuki Kimura, Naoki Watanabe and Akira Kouchi, 8 May 2020, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-64815-6

This research study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (25108002), and by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)’s KAKENHI grant (17H06087).