Water is the key ingredient that made life possible on Earth. Oceans cover more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface. According to one theory, water came to Earth thanks to space rocks. British scientists say they have strong evidence to support this thesis. They examined a meteorite that fell to earth last year in an English city.
In February last year, a fragment of a meteorite was found on a property in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England. It was the first facility of this type to appear in the UK in 30 years. Thanks to the fact that it was found very quickly, only a few hours after the fall, it was not contaminated by the material present on our planet. Its age was determined to be 4.6 billion years, which is approximately the age of the solar system. It comes from an asteroid near Jupiter.
A billion-year-old meteorite
Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London described it as “one of the most pristine” meteorites available for analysis, which “gave insight into the primordial composition of the solar system”. It was named after the place where it fell.
The analysis of the space rock by specialists from around the world began just a few days after it landed on Earth. The tests showed that the object consists of two percent coal and 11 percent carbon. from water. It belongs to a group of meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites. Of the approximately 65,000 meteorites on Earth, only 51 are carbonaceous chondrites. They are considered the most primitive and pristine materials in the solar system.
The “key role” of meteorites
Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum and the University of Glasgow studied the ratio of hydrogen isotopes in the water contained in the rock. They found that it largely resembles the composition of water on our planet. By analyzing the meteorite, amino acids were also found, i.e. organic compounds necessary for the emergence of life.
As the authors of the study stress, noting that “the composition of the meteorite is largely unchanged by the terrestrial environment”, these results indicate that carbonaceous chondrites “played a key role in providing the ingredients needed for the origin of oceans and early life on Earth.”
– One of the main questions asked by the scientific community is how we got here (on Earth – ed.). The analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite offers insight into where water came from on Earth, said study co-author Luke Daly. He added that over the coming years, work on this specimen will continue to unravel more mysteries about the origins of the Solar System.
The research was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
Natural History Museum, CNN, The Guardian, tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: Trustees/NHM