A new study shows that the life-giving water on Earth predates the formation of our Sun as well as our solar system, and that there could be a lot more of it out there than we thought.
According to the LA Times , a study published this past Thursday in Science states that the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth and throughout the solar system could only occur if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets, and asteroids.
Forbes reports that the existence of this water makes it a lot more likely that water does not only exist in our little corner of the Universe, and that extra-terrestrial life could exist on exoplanets orbiting other stars in our galaxy.
Tim Harries, a Professor from the University of Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy Department, stated , “This is an important step forward in our quest to find out if life exists on other planets…
by identifying the ancient heritage of Earth’s water, we can see that the way in which our solar system was formed will not be unique, and that exoplanets will form in environments with abundant water.
Consequently, it raises the possibility that some exoplanets could house the right conditions, and water resources, for life to evolve.” To be honest, scientists are still unsure as to how water arrived on Earth.
Over the past several decades, two competing explanations have formed.
The first is that water came from interstellar ice that formed in the huge cloud of gas that gave birth to our sun and the solar system.
The second is that the energy of star birth ripped apart interstellar water, causing its building blocks to get reprocessed within the protoplanetary disk that would eventually coalesce into the planets and other bodies.
Ilse Cleeves, an astronomer at the University of Michigan, made it her duty to determine just how much energy was capable of penetrating planet-forming disks around stars.
She stated , “This study was kind of a side project…
we realized that if the amount of energy in the disk is as low as we think, that means the water in our solar system couldn’t have formed there, and it had to come from somewhere else.” Scientists’ findings concluded that cosmic rays could have penetrated the gas cloud before it collapsed into the protoplanetary disk, allowing heavy water to form.
Ted Bergin, a professor of astronomy from the University of Michigan, stated , “Based on our simulations and our growing astronomical understanding, the formation of water from hydrogen and oxygen atoms is a ubiquitous component of the early stages of stellar birth.
It is this water, which we know from astronomical observations forms at only ten degrees above absolute zero before the birth of the star, that is provided to nascent stellar systems everywhere.”