The Water You Drink Is Older Than The Planet You’re Standing On

The Water You Drink Is Older Than The Planet You’re Standing On

Does it ever happened that when you drink a glass of water, to think it may be older than our planet?

Well, a new study suggests that 50% of the Earth’s water might be older not only than the planet, but the Solar System itself.

An experiment led by Ilse Cleeves, at the University of Michigan, might “look back” in the history of our solar system and galaxy and could reveal the mystery of the water source.

Two theories exist about this

The first one says the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans were born within the solar system itself, while the second one believes the water originated much earlier in the cold molecular cloud that generated the sun and its protoplanetary disk.

The second theory could be true, according to Cleeves, who shows us in a simulation that between 30-50% of the water came from the molecular cloud, making it roughly a million years older than the Solar System.

“To arrive at that estimate, Cleeves and Ted Bergin, a professor of astronomy, simulated the chemistry that went on as our solar system formed. They focused on the ratio of two slightly different varieties of water—the common kind and a heavier version. Today, comets and Earth’s oceans hold particular ratios of heavy water—higher ratios than the sun contains.” – University of Michigan, via chaosmos

Gulf of Alaska, where two oceans meet but never mix. via lateet

Chemistry tells us that Earth received a contribution of water from some source that was very cold—only tens of degrees above absolute zero, while the sun being substantially hotter has erased this deuterium, or heavy water, fingerprint,” Bergin said.

To make their Solar System simulation possible, the scientists zeroed out the heavy water and they waited to see if eons of their formation could lead to the ratios they see today on Earth and comets.

The question is how much water exists in the Galaxy and in other Solar Systems. Fortunately, this model suggests that other Solar Systems and Galaxies also had access to the same ancient water reserves as our planet did.

“We let the chemistry evolve for a million years—the typical lifetime of a planet-forming disk—and we found that chemical processes in the disk were inefficient at making heavy water throughout the solar system,” Cleeves said. “What this implies is if the planetary disk didn’t make the water, it inherited it. Consequently, some fraction of the water in our solar system predates the sun.” – Ilse Cleeves said

Water in stardust. Simeone Brandt – Getty Images

The implications of these findings are pretty exciting. If water formation had been a local process that occurs in individual stellar systems, the amount of water and other important chemical ingredients necessary for the formation of life might vary from system to system. But because some of the chemically rich ices from the molecular cloud are directly inherited, young planetary systems have access to these important ingredients,” – Cleeves added.

Ted Bergin added also: “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 10 degrees above absolute zero before the birth of the star, that is provided to nascent stellar systems everywhere.

 

 

You can find the full study here 

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