The researchers raised a fundamentally new hypothesis about the origin of water on our planet. The Earth, according to a new study, could have been extremely saturated with water since its inception, while until now the most common version was that the water was brought in by meteorites.
New research, published in the journal Science, suggests that water on Earth may have come from materials that were present in the inner solar system at the time the planet formed. Therefore, it is possible that our planet was always wet.
Researchers at the Center for Petrographic and Geochemical Research in France and Washington University in St. Louis in the United States determined that a type of meteorite called enstatite chondrite contains enough hydrogen to deliver at least three times the amount of water contained in the Earth’s oceans, and probably much more.
Enstatite chondrites are entirely composed of material from the inner solar system, essentially the same material that originally formed Earth, the study authors explain.
These Earth’s building blocks could have contributed significantly to Earth’s water. The findings of this study are surprising because Earth’s building blocks are often considered dry, says the Phys.org article.
The scientists used two analytical techniques – conventional mass spectrometry and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) – to precisely measure the content and composition of the amounts of water in enstatite chondrites.
“The most interesting thing about the discovery for me is that enstatite chondrites, which were believed to be almost ‘dry,’ contain an unexpectedly high abundance of water,” said one of the study’s authors, Lionel Vacher, a postdoctoral researcher in Physics at Washington University in St. Louis.
Enstatite chondrites have similar isotopes of oxygen, titanium and calcium similar to Earth’s, and this study showed that their isotopes of hydrogen and nitrogen are also similar to those on Earth.
“If enstatite chondrites were indeed the building blocks of our planet – as strongly suggested by their similar isotopic compositions – this result implies that enstatite chondrites supplied enough water to Earth to explain the origin of water on Earth, Which is amazing!” Vacher stressed.
The paper also proposes that a large amount of atmospheric nitrogen – the most abundant component of Earth’s atmosphere – could have come from enstatite chondrites.