When was the origin of water and life on Earth? When did the oceans first appear?
Over the years, there have been many different answers developed in response to those questions. When it comes to narrowing down precise conclusions, scientists have not been able to do that. New research studies conducted by a team of scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution may have finally changed that, however, and changed mankind’s understanding of the Earth right along with it.
According to the International Business Times, the answer that the team came up with is that “our oceans were always here.”
“The answer to one of the basic questions is that our oceans were always here. We didn’t get them from a late process, as we previously thought.”
The statement was made by Adam Sarafian in a news release published by the institution on Thursday. Sarafian was also the lead author of a paper that was published on Friday in the journal Science. In addition to his published works, Sarafian is also a student within the Geology and Geophysics Department located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The traditional belief of scientists in the past was that all planets were initially formed without any water. It was concluded that water was eventually transferred to Earth through “other sources,” such as asteroids and comets.
However, the research studies conducted by Sarafian and his team introduce a brand new theory. Horst Marschall, a co-author of the paper and geologist, states that “Earth’s water most likely accreted at the same time as the rock.” He further stated that “the planet formed as a wet planet with water on the surface.”
Marschall also explained in his statement why the original theory of “giant asteroids and meteors” transferring water is likely not the case at all.
“With giant asteroids and meteors colliding, there’s a lot of destruction. Some people have argued that any water molecules that were present as the planets were forming would have evaporated or been blown off into space, and that surface water as it exists on our planet today, must have come much, much later—hundreds of millions of years later.”
During their research studies, this team of scientists had to shift their focus towards an alternative option that could have been a source of Earth’s water called carbonaceous chondrites.
Carbonaceous chondrites, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, are “the most primitive known meteorites.” These meteorites were formed in the same mixture of ice, grit, dust, and gases used to create the sun over 4.6 billion years ago — long before any of the planets were formed.
Another geologist who worked on the same team of scientists, Sune Nielsen, stated that those primitive meteorites (carbonaceous chondrites) actually “resemble the bulk solar system composition.”
“These primitive meteorites resemble the bulk solar system composition. They have quite a lot of water in them, and have been thought of before as candidates for the origin of Earth’s water.”
The findings and studies do not necessarily “preclude the late addition of water.” However, the highlights of the study prove that it wasn’t necessary since there was already enough water with the right composition present on the Earth.
With that being said, this team of scientists was able to use their new line of reasoning and understanding about the origin of water to develop a new theory about the origin of life as well. This is primarily because a shift in timing of the origin of water is more than likely connected to a shift in the timing of the origin of life as well, according to Nielsen.
“An implication of that is that life on our planet could have started to begin very early. Knowing that water came early to the inner solar system also means that the other inner planets could have been wet early and evolved life before they became the harsh environments they are today.”
According to the International Business Times, these studies draw the overall conclusion that the origin of water and life occurred a lot earlier than most people think.
What do you think about this new sense of understanding?
[Image Credit: Nature]