Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth found in asteroid debris

07.05.2015
  • Quantity of water on Earth not unique
  • Water likely reached Earth via comets and asteroids crashing into Earth's surface
  • Evidence found in the atmosphere of white dwarf star
  • Asteroid found to contain 30-35% Earth's water content
  • Research led by the University of Warwick and published by Royal Astronomical Society

Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests.


Artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star. Similar objects in the Solar System likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets.

Image copyright Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick

Published by the Royal Astronomical Society and led by the University of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.

The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life.

Commenting on the findings lead researcher Dr Roberto Raddi, of the University of Warwick's Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, said:

"Our research has found that, rather than being unique, water-rich asteroids similar to those found in our Solar System appear to be frequent. Accordingly, many of planets may have contained a volume of water, comparable to that contained in the Earth.

"It is believed that the Earth was initially dry, but our research strongly supports the view that the oceans we have today were created as a result of impacts by water-rich comets or asteroids".

In observations obtained at the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, the University of Warwick astronomers detected a large quantity of hydrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf (known as SDSS J1242+5226). The quantities found provide the evidence that a water-rich exo-asteroid was disrupted and eventually delivered the water it contained onto the star.

The asteroid, the researchers discovered, was comparable in size to Ceres - at 900km across, the largest asteroid in the Solar System. "The amount of water found SDSS J1242+5226 is equivalent to 30-35% of the oceans on Earth", explained Dr Raddi.

The impact of water-rich asteroids or comets onto a planet or white dwarf results in the mixing of hydrogen and oxygen into the atmosphere. Both elements were detected in large amounts in SDSS J1242+5226.

Research co-author Professor Boris Gänsicke, also of University of Warwick, explained:

"Oxygen, which is a relatively heavy element, will sink deep down over time, and hence a while after the disruption event is over, it will no longer be visible.

"In contrast, hydrogen is the lightest element; it will always remain floating near the surface of the white dwarf where it can easily be detected. There are many white dwarfs that hold large amounts of hydrogen in their atmospheres, and this new study suggests that this is evidence that water-rich asteroids or comets are common around other stars than the Sun".

The research, Likely detection of water-rich asteroid debris in a metal-polluted white dwarf, is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by Oxford University Press.

###

Notes for Editors:

A high res illustration can be found here: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/water_discovered_in/wateryasteroidscience.jpg

For which the caption is "Artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star. Similar objects in the Solar System likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets. Image copyright Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick".

The research was carried out at the UK William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands.

A copy of the paper can be found here after the embargo is up: http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/mnras/stv701

Professor Boris Gänsicke from the University of Warwick is available for interview on +44 (0)2476574741 or email Boris.Gaensicke@warwick.ac.uk

Or for further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Policy University of Warwick
Tel UK: 024 76523708 office 07767 655860 mobile Tel
Overseas: +44 (0)24 76523708 office +44 (0)7767 655860
Email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

Media Contact

Boris Gaensicke
Boris.Gaensicke@warwick.ac.uk
44-024-765-74741

 @warwicknewsroom

http://www.warwick.ac.uk 

Boris Gaensicke | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Asteroids Astronomical Canary Earth Islands SDSS Telescope Warwick William Herschel Telescope dwarf oceans white dwarf

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

Shape matters when light meets atom

05.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”

05.12.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>