Early Solar System meteorites might explain how Earth got water

They may have lost water 'just' a few hundred thousand years ago.

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Jon Fingas
January 10th, 2021
a piece of NWA 7865: carbonaceous chondrite meteorite type 3 (CV3)
Found in the Sahara desert of Morocco. Circular chondrules are visibles
length = 17mm
Ludovic Debono via Getty Images

Some of the oldest known meteorites might just explain how water came to Earth. Gizmodo reports that scientists have discovered evidence carbonaceous chondrites, a group of meteorites from the formation of the Solar System (about 4.5 billion years in the past), held liquid water until ‘just’ a few hundred thousand years ago. They may have seeded Earth with water when it was still very young, then.

The reseachers dated the water flow in the rocks using a uranium-thorium combo. As uranium is highly mobile in fluid while thorium is relatively static, the scientists could tell when water last flowed through the meteorites. As that signature goes away over time, its presence makes clear the water was active relatively recently.

Water isn’t all that rare among Solar System objects. Asteroid Bennu has some, for instance, and comets by their nature are spewing thawing ice. These latest findings show just how long that water can stick around, though, and suggest that some chondrites on Earth might still have ice despite the force of their impact.

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