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Where does water come from on Earth? The answer is given by a meteorite

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In the charming town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, a meteorite landed last year (February 2021). Precisely, it landed in the garden of a nice English family. The discovery was immediately the subject of a study which, less than a year later, returned results far beyond expectations.

 

Researchers from the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Glasgow in Scotland managed to recover the debris as soon as possible (recovered within 12 hours of its landing), to prevent the alteration of the meteorite’s characteristics due to to the earth’s atmosphere. Indeed the recovery was timely, in fact Natasha Almeida, curator and head of meteorites at the Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study, declared that “the specimen will remain one of the most pristine meteorites in collections around the world”.
The size of a basketball, dubbed the Winchcombe meteorite, it has also been described as ‘lucky’because if it had traveled at a different speed or at a different angle, everything would have burned out and it would not have been possible to do all the interesting investigations and chemical analyzes carried out by the researchers.

The meteor responds

First of all, the meteorite is a fragment that arrived on Earth shortly after the detachment from a primitive asteroid, and has been identified as carbonaceous chondrite CM , a type of stony meteorite that contains a high composition of components prior to our solar system, that of Winchcombe contains  about 11% water and 2% carbon.

“We know everything in it is 100% extraterrestrial, including 11% water,” said Luke Daly, co-author of the study and lecturer in planetary geosciences at the University of Glasgow.

 

“Most CM chondrites have the ‘Earth-like’ structure of water molecules, but these rocks weather and degrade within a few days (or weeks) of their presence on our planet, and therefore could be to the Earth” just because they absorbed rainwater or something else,” he explained. For this reason it is important to underline the importance of fast recovery, proven by the extraterrestrial matrix of the elements that make up the recovered meteorite.

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The team, which measured the ratio of hydrogen isotopes in “almost immaculate” water on the asteroid (isotopes are atoms belonging to the same chemical element – hydrogen in this case – but which differ from each other in the number of neutrons) , found a close resemblance to the composition of water on Earth, according to a press release from the Natural History Museum.

This makes it even more evident that asteroids played an important role in the origin of Earth’s water and the idea that experts are forming is that water, and other types of organic materials, were brought to Earth by asteroids, such as the one from which Winchcombe broke away.

 

 

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