Earth might have had water from the very beginning, although previously, researchers have suggested it could have been delivered by a comet or an asteroid millions of years after the planet’s formation.
When Earth took shape, it was much closer to the Sun, which means it was much hotter, so the idea it had water all along was dismissed from the start. However, now, according to a new study which answers one of Earth’s biggest enigmas, our planet might have had water from the beginning.
New Water Revealings
The new research suggests our planet had water all along, as per the scientists who have been analyzing the composition of Earth. The paper detailing the findings was published in the journal Science, and in it, experts from the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques in Nancy, France, reported the findings resulting from the assay of 13 different enstatite chondrite (EC) meteorites.
These meteorites are very similar in structure to the space rocks and dust, which aided our planet to form about 4.6 billion years ago. The study discovered that these meteorites, which were previously assumed to be bone dry, were actually filled with hydrogen – the main element of water.
After carrying out numerous calculations, the team found there was so much hydrogen packed in the meteorites of our young planet Earth that it may have contained three times as much water as the oceans of today hold.
The study reads: “The origin of Earth’s water remains unknown. Enstatite chondrite (EC) meteorites have similar isotopic composition to terrestrial rocks and thus may be representative of the material that formed Earth. ECs are presumed to be devoid of water because they formed in the inner Solar System.”
According to the experts, “Earth’s water is, therefore, generally attributed to the late addition of a small fraction of hydrated materials, such as carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which originated in the outer Solar System where water was more abundant. We show that EC meteorites contain sufficient hydrogen to have delivered to Earth at least three times the mass of water in its oceans.”
Today’s Water vs. the Ancient Water
Lead author Laurette Piani also said: “Our discovery shows that the Earth’s building blocks might have significantly contributed to the Earth’s water. Hydrogen-bearing material was present in the inner solar system at the time of the rocky planet formation, even though the temperatures were too high for water to condense.”
Another scientist, Anne Peslier, a researcher at NASA‘s Johnson Space Center in Houston, wrote in an afferent piece for the journal Science that Piani and her colleagues ‘convincingly argue that water could come from enstatite chondrites.’ However, whether today’s water is the same as the water which may have been on Earth 4.6 billion years ago is not clear, Peslier said.
She claims that the planet’s initial water, if it was actually there, may have been vaporized quickly by the Sun, which, again, was much closer to the planet that it is today.
Finalizing her claims, Peslier said: “Nevertheless, the authors’ work brings a crucial and elegant element to this puzzle. Earth’s water may simply have come from the nebular material from which the planet accreted.”