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If you’ve ever wondered where the water on Earth comes from, new research into a meteorite that landed in a family’s front yard in England last year may have just the answer.
Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum and the University of Glasgow in Scotland examined a meteorite found in the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, to discover it contained water similar to that on Earth.
“It’s a crystal clear window into our early solar system,” Luke Daly, co-author of the study and lecturer in planetary geosciences at the University of Glasgow, told CNN on Thursday.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, reveals that billions of years ago, extraterrestrial rocks may have brought vital chemical components — like water — to our planet, founding the oceans and all life on Earth.
According to the US Geological Survey, about 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, with the oceans containing about 96.5% of all water.
Imaging and chemical analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite – as it has come to be known – found it to contain about 11% water and 2% carbon by weight, making it the first of its kind to be found in the UK.
The team, which measured the ratio of hydrogen isotopes in the water, found it to be very similar to the composition of water on Earth. This emerges from a press release from the Natural History Museum.
Extracts from the rock also found extraterrestrial amino acids, making it the strongest evidence that water and organic material were brought to the planet by asteroids like the one that Winchcombe broke away from.
The meteorite has been identified as a carbonaceous CM chondrite, a type of stony meteorite containing a high composition of components older than the solar system.
Recovered within 12 hours of landing with the help of the UK Fireball Alliance, an organization dedicated to recovering freshly fallen meteorites in the UK, it has had very little time to be altered by Earth’s atmosphere.
“We know (that means) everything in it is 100% alien, including the 11% water that it contains,” Daly said.
“Most CM chondrites have ‘Earth-like’ water, but these rocks change and decompose within days (or) weeks after they’ve been on Earth, and so they might just be Earth-like because they’re rainwater or something.” absorbed,” he explained.
Natasha Almeida, curator of meteorites at the Natural History Museum and co-author of the study, said in a statement Wednesday that “the incredibly fresh specimen will remain one of the most pristine meteorites in collections worldwide.”
Daly called the Winchcombe meteorite a “lucky find”. It was only the size of a basketball. So if it had been moving at a different speed or angle it would have all burned up, he said, adding that it was a great collaboration from the UK cosmochemistry network that “came down the kitchen sink towards the study of this rock.” throw.”
While this paper is the first of many publications in the works about the meteorite, Daly said it will keep her busy for years to come. “There are certainly many more stories and mysteries to be found in this particular stone,” he added.