Looks like we might have gotten this really basic fact about Earth totally wrong
Here’s what we’ve always thought about how the Earth got its water — or, if you’re like me, and don’t think about that stuff at all because the sheer scope of it all keeps you up at night, here’s how scientists thought Earth got its water: Our big blue planet actually started completely dry, and then extraterrestrial impacts created the oceans. Don’t think about it too hard. That’s just how it happened. Except not. Recent research suggests that we might have always had water from the start, and that’s blowing everyone’s minds.
Basically, geochemists studies these things called isotopes to get a better idea of the Earth’s water and where it came from. The isotope ratio in seawater and the isotope ratio in extraterrestrial rocks are pretty similar, and that’s what spawned the extraterrestrial impact theory. However, if there was an impact, it would have left some stuff behind. We can’t find any of that stuff, which is giving scientists pause.
So they tried something new — instead looking at volcanic rocks from Iceland and Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, and studying the water trapped deep inside of them. What they found was a super light hydrogen isotope ratio, which essentially just means they have a new theory: The Earth’s ancient water, like the water in these volcanic rocks, probably came from the same cloud that created the entire solar system.
Woah, talk about a mic-drop. What’s exciting about all of this is that, if it’s true, it could have happened to other planets, supporting the theory that somewhere out there is a planet not too different from our own. I want to go to there.
(Image via Shutterstock)