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Carbon dioxide-rich Water found in ‘shooting star’ that crashed to Earth nearly a decade ago

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Water with carbon dioxide has been found in a ‘shooting star’ that crashed to Earth nearly a decade ago.

The rock broke off an asteroid that formed 4.6 billion years ago – around the time the solar system was being born.

The meteorite belongs to a group known as ‘Carbonaceous chondrites‘ – an extremely rare type.

Scientists using powerful state-of-the-art microscopes detected a thin fluid inside a transparent crystal – containing at least 15 percent CO2.

It’s the first time the main fertilizer and building block for life has been discovered in a space rock dating back to the early history of the solar system.

Lead author Professor Akira Tsuchiyama, of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, said:

The discovery is an important achievement for planetary science.

It shows our team could detect a tiny fluid trapped in a mineral 4.6 billion years ago.

It could have implications for the origins of life on Earth – which are said to have come from outer space.

Prof Tsuchiyama:

This finding confirms crystals in ancient carbonaceous chondrites can indeed contain not only liquid water – but also carbon dioxide.

It’s the ‘primary food’ for life – key to photosynthesis and respiration in plants and animals.

The researchers used powerful state-of-the-art scanning techniques to carry out a detailed analysis of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite.

It lit up the California night sky with a dazzling fireball in April 2012 – traveling over the Sierra Nevada at an astonishing 64,000 mph – twice the normal speeed.

The ten foot object impacted at the same site that led to the 1849 Gold Rush. Astronomers described it a “striking scientific gold.”

Detection by weather radar allowed for rapid recovery – protecting the world’s most pristine primitive space rocks.

Water is abundant in the solar system – and played an important role in its early evolution. Ice has been identified on the moon and in Saturn’s rings and comets.

There is liquid water on Mars and under the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Traces of water vapor have even been detected in Venus’ scorching atmosphere.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows it’s also present in more primitive extra-terrestrial materials.

Prof Tsuchiyama said:

The presence of liquid water inclusions within the Sutter’s Mill meteorite has interesting implications concerning the origins of its parent asteroid and the early history of the solar system.

The inclusions likely occurred due to the parent asteroid forming with bits of frozen water and CO2 inside it.

This would require the asteroid to have formed in a part of the solar system cold enough for water and CO2 to freeze.

These conditions would place the site of formation far outside of Earth’s orbit – likely beyond even Jupiter’s.

The asteroid must then have been transported to the inner regions of the solar system where fragments could later collide with Earth.

Prof Tsuchiyama added:

This assumption is consistent with recent theoretical studies of the solar system’s evolution.

They suggest asteroids rich in small, volatile molecules like water and carbon dioxide formed beyond Jupiter’s orbit before being transported to areas closer to the sun.

The most likely cause of the asteroid’s transportation into the inner solar system would be the gravitational effects of the planet Jupiter and its migration.

Chemical snapshots of an ancient meteorite’s contents provide important insights into processes at work in the solar system’s early history, he said.

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