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How Did Water First Get On Earth? The Answer Comes From Outer Space

Representative Image

Representative Image

The amount of water present in the rocks that made up the Earth had never been accurately estimated. The scientists focused on meteorites with a composition similar to that of the Earth, called enstatite chondrites.

From primary schools to science documentaries, Earth is referred to as ‘the blue planet.’ This nomenclature comes from the fact that 71% of its surface is covered in water. But how did the water come to be here when most planets seem to be devoid of this life-force?

The fields of Astrobiology and planetary Science have been trying to find a concrete answer for decades. Finding a definitive answer may hold more clues about the origin of life. To answer this riddle, scientists look to elements outside Earth.

Much has changed on Earth since its origin, but some extra-planetary bodies, like meteorites, remain largely unchanged from their origin. One such meteorite is the Sahara 97096 Enstatite Chondrite (E.C.). The E.C. family of meteorites are an extremely rare occurrence with a basic echo of the Earth’s own composition.

The most recent study conducted on the Sahara 97096 Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques in Nancy (CNRS/Université de Lorraine) reveal that water might have been present on Earth from the very beginning.

According to Scitechdaily, a paper published in the journal Science revealed that Earth’s primitive rocks contained enough water to fill oceans thrice the current size. The meteorite was found in 1997, but conclusive tests were a subject to modern machinery and we finally have more credible evidence.

The composition of these meteorites reveals that primitive Earth rocks weren’t as dry as previously believed. A fairly established earlier belief was that water must have arrived much later in Earth’s formation, mostly facilitated by water-rich asteroids colliding with the planet. As revealed in this research, scientists estimate that only 5% of the water may have been from asteroids, with the remaining 95% being a part of Earth’s own composition.

The water debate has confused scientists for a long time. Logically, the Earth’s position in the solar system should not be ideal for the development of water. As in the early stages of planetary formation with constant collisions and eruptions, Earth’s proximity to the sun should have evaporated all the liquid from the already heated planet (the planetary process is believed to be extensively exothermic).

first published:September 14, 2020, 12:14 IST