Water on Earth and Moon May Have Same Source
2013 05 10

By Charles Q. Choi | SPACE

Water deep inside Earth and the moon may originate from the same source: ancient meteorites, scientists say.


The findings hint that water may have existed on Earth before the giant impact the planet received that created the moon, and that the moon possessed water from its earliest moments, scientists added. It remains a mystery exactly how water found within the moon survived this violent collision, though.

Water is vital to life as we know it, with organisms found virtually everywhere there is water on Earth. When Earth was born, the ingredients of the planet’s water most likely would have formed beyond the orbit of Earth. As such, all the water on the planet must have come from either comets or meteorites hurtling inward from the outer solar system.

Until recently, scientists thought the interior of the moon was bone-dry, originating as the moon did from the molten debris of a giant impact of a Mars-size protoplanet against Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. The heat of this collision should have baked all the ingredients of water out of the moon. However, five years ago, the first evidence of hydrogen was discovered in lunar samples from the Apollo missions. Hydrogen is a main ingredient of water, along with oxygen.

To discover the origins of this water, scientists analyzed crystals and glass beads from the moon rocks brought to Earth by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. These crystals and beads possessed tiny pieces of glass that serve as records of the moon’s geological history.

The researchers focused on isotopes of the hydrogen found in this lunar magma. All isotopes of an element have the same number of protons, but each has a different number of neutrons. For instance, regular hydrogen has no neutrons, while the hydrogen isotope known as deuterium has one neutron. In general, objects formed closer to the sun have less deuterium than bodies that formed farther out.

The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen seen in meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites is similar to that seen in water on Earth, suggesting that as much as 98 percent of Earth water may have come from those space rocks instead of comets. Now, researchers find the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in moon rocks is similar to that seen on Earth as well.

Altogether, these findings suggest that water on the moon and Earth share a common origin in carbonaceous chondrites, meteorites found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that are thought to be among the oldest objects in the solar system.

[...]

Read the full article at: space.com




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