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posted by janrinok on Monday November 21, @07:22PM   Printer-friendly

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/meteorite-uk-winchcombe-earth-water-asteroids

Late in the evening of February 28, 2021, a coal-dark space rock about the size of a soccer ball fell through the sky over northern England. The rock blazed in a dazzling, eight-second-long streak of light, split into fragments and sped toward the Earth. The largest piece went splat in the driveway of Rob and Cathryn Wilcock in the small, historic town of Winchcombe.

An analysis of those fragments now shows that the meteorite came from the outer solar system, and contains water that is chemically similar to Earth's, scientists report November 16 in Science Advances. How Earth got its water remains one of science's enduring mysteries. The new results support the idea that asteroids brought water to the young planet (SN: 5/6/15).

[...] "It's as pristine as we're going to get from a meteorite," King says. "Other than it landing in the museum on my desk, or other than sending a spacecraft up there, we can't really get them any quicker or more pristine."

After collecting about 530 grams of meteorite from Winchcombe and other sites, including a sheep field in Scotland, King and colleagues threw a kitchen sink of lab techniques at the samples. The researchers polished the material, heated it and bombarded it with electrons, X-rays and lasers to figure out what elements and minerals it contained.

[...] The meteorite is a type of rare, carbon-rich rock called a carbonaceous chondrite, the team found. It came from an asteroid near the orbit of Jupiter, and got its start toward Earth around 300,000 years ago, a relatively short time for a trip through space, the researchers calculate.

Chemical analyses also revealed that the meteorite is about 11 percent water by weight, with the water locked in hydrated minerals. Some of the hydrogen in that water is actually deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, and the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in the meteorite is similar to that of the Earth's atmosphere. "It's a good indication that water [on Earth] was coming from water-rich asteroids," King says.

Researchers also found amino acids and other organic material in the meteorite pieces. "These are the building blocks for things like DNA," King says. The pieces "don't contain life, but they have the starting point for life locked up in them."

A. King et al. The Winchcombe meteorite, a unique and pristine witness from the outer solar system. Science Advances. Published online November 16, 2022. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abq3925.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @08:11PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @08:11PM (#1280880)

    The earth came from asteroids

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday November 22, @12:01AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday November 22, @12:01AM (#1280923) Journal

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_water_on_Earth [wikipedia.org]

      Water has a much lower condensation temperature than other materials that compose the terrestrial planets in the Solar System, such as iron and silicates. The region of the protoplanetary disk closest to the Sun was very hot early in the history of the Solar System, and it is not feasible that oceans of water condensed with the Earth as it formed. Further from the young Sun where temperatures were cooler, water could condense and form icy planetesimals. The boundary of the region where ice could form in the early Solar System is known as the frost line (or snow line), and is located in the modern asteroid belt, between about 2.7 and 3.1 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. It is therefore necessary that objects forming beyond the frost line–such as comets, trans-Neptunian objects, and water-rich meteoroids (protoplanets)–delivered water to Earth. However, the timing of this delivery is still in question.

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    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Tuesday November 22, @10:56AM (1 child)

      by driverless (4770) on Tuesday November 22, @10:56AM (#1281006)

      meteorite came from the outer solar system, and contains water that is chemically similar to Earth's

      So they're saying their water is actually H2O rather than H2O, or H2O, or even H2O?

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by krishnoid on Monday November 21, @09:23PM (3 children)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Monday November 21, @09:23PM (#1280894)

    So if Earth needed to get its water from an asteroid collision, then (for argument's sake) presuming water is a building block of any sort of life, how does *that* factor into the Drake equation?

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, @01:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, @01:27AM (#1280934)

      Love the Drake!

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Some call me Tim on Tuesday November 22, @03:00AM

      by Some call me Tim (5819) on Tuesday November 22, @03:00AM (#1280948)

      Well, ducks love water and male ducks are called Drakes so there you go.
      https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/male-duck-called-d0425ea72c8b5481 [reference.com]

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, @04:13AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, @04:13AM (#1280962)

      > how does *that* factor into the Drake equation?

      Does another random factor of 10 make a difference?

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