Asteroids Brought Water to Earth, Shows New Cannon Experiment


A team of scientists went to experiment their theory at the Vertical Gun Range at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. They used a device to shoot projectiles similar to meteorites at volcanic rocks. The impact helped them understand how water got on Earth.

The projectiles used were the size of marbles and they were shot at speeds of 18,000 km/h. The composition of the projectiles was similar to that of the meteorites that come from water-rich asteroids. When Earth evolved, it was hit frequently by these asteroids. After the experiment was finished, scientists published their study on 25 April, in the journal Science Advances.

Water Brought By Asteroids to an Arid Earth

The study revealed that when the collisions made 30% of the water from the asteroid to get trapped in the debris, after the impact. The leader of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Terik Daly said that:

“The origin and transportation of water and volatiles is one of the big questions in planetary science. These experiments reveal a mechanism by which asteroids could deliver water to moons, planets and other asteroids.”

Until now, astronomers believed that the water on Earth came from comets, but it seems that, according to this latest research, asteroids were the main carriers. Scientists also made measurement and the water on Earth has a similar composition of isotopes as the water that comes from carbonaceous asteroids.

How Was It Possible? Didn’t The Water Boil Off?

But how could these asteroids deliver water to a completely dry Earth? Even though all water should boil off in the heat of the impact, Peter Schultz, a professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and co-author of the study explains:

“Nature has a tendency to be more interesting than our models, which is why we need to do experiments. What we’re suggesting is that the water vapor gets ingested into the melts and breccias as they form. So even though the impactor loses its water, some of it is recaptured as the melt rapidly quenches.”

The water was trapped in the rock and in the material that was shot into it. This process could also explain how there is water in the lunar mantle or on its other areas, like in the Tycho Crater.



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