A team of researchers announces that they have identified liquid water rich in carbon dioxide inside a meteorite formed 4.6 billion years ago. This discovery suggests that its parent asteroid formed beyond Jupiter’s orbit before moving closer to the inner solar system.
Water, in whatever form, is ubiquitous throughout the solar system. You will find it on Earth, on the Moon, in the rings of Saturn, in comets, on Mars or even on Titan and Enceladus, to name but a few examples. Water is even present in more unlikely places. Traces of vapor have indeed been detected in the hot atmosphere of Venus, where at the bottom of the craters of Mercury, which flirts with the Sun.
Liquid water in carbonaceous chondrites
The researchers also spotted inclusions of liquid water inside salt crystals located in a class of meteorites called ordinary chondrites, which make up the vast majority of all meteorites recorded on Earth. Until now, however, this precious resource had never been found in meteorites. carbonaceous chondrites, formed very early in the history of the solar system. It is now done.
As part of a recent study, a team from Ritsumeikan University of Japan, led by Akira Tsuchiyama, relied on microscopy techniques to examine fragments of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite. Formed there about 4.6 billion years, at the dawn of the solar system, the rock had completed its journey on Earth in 2012, near Sacramento (United States). These analyzes made it possible to isolate a small crystal of calcite harboring a tiny pocket of liquid water container at least 15% carbon dioxide.
The presence of liquid water inclusions in the Sutter’s Mill meteorite has interesting implications regarding the origins of this meteorite’s parent asteroid. In view of these results, the researchers indeed believe that the object was probably formed from fragments of frozen water and carbon dioxide. If this is the case, it means that it developed beyond the orbit of Jupiter, to then migrate inside our system under the gravitational effects of the giant.
This exciting new work therefore expands our understanding of how the planets evolved in our solar system. Let us also remember that this primitive water could also have contributed to “hydrate” the Earth several billion years ago, ultimately contributing to the appearance and development of life.