Are Asteroids The Source of Earth's Water?

June 16, 2018
Water is the source of numerous scientific debates. And also, life. While past theories attributed the origin of water on this particular planet to interplanetary dusts, or comets, a recent research paper on the same is challenging the previous assumptions.
Asteroid Hitting Planet Earth

Why asteroids? Because samples of asteroids, more specifically a type called carbonaceous chondrites or C chondrites, were known to contain certain amount of water, with the percentage usually ranging from 3% to 22%. Also, about 4 billion years ago, asteroids actually collided with the earth, and the scientists refer to this event as the 'late heavy bombardment'. Although the scientific community were previously of the view that due to the result of the massive collision, the water on the asteroids probably evaporated, this new research paper seems to tell otherwise.

About the paper: The paper which appeared in a recent issue of the journal, Science Advances, carries evidence that asteroids may have been indeed a source of water on earth. R. Terik Daly, a researcher at John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and Peter H. Schultz, planetary scientist at Brown University, whose research paper is creating ripples in the world of science, conducted experiments which involved NASA's 14 ft long barrel vertical gun. They used this gun to stimulate the circumstances similar to the 'late heavy bombardment'.

The experiment: Daly and Schultz used the 'gun' to fire the pebbles (obtained from the rock, Antigorite) at a  a pumice (which was a substitute for the earth), and the speed was 11,200 miles an hour. While the speed of the collision did cause a portion of the water to evaporate, the pumice managed to retain almost 30% of it, which confirms this theory!

Why this theory will important for further research? Well, scientists for the most part thought that it was impossible for the earth to retain any water from the asteroids upon collision. For this reason, during the 'late heavy bombardment', the water was thought to have been evaporated due to the immense heat. But thanks to this experiment, scientists can actually take some serious steps towards solving this favourite riddle of the academic community. 

Are asteroids the sole source of water on earth? Probably not. This is too early a stage to make conclusions, and asteroids may be just one source.

Well, that settles this watery affair. Stay hydrated for the next big discovery!

Post Written by - Lopamudra

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