A meteorite that fell in the UK the year before contained extraterrestrial water, a discovery that is the first of its kind.
It is also believed that the Winchcombe meteorite, which fell into a Gloucestershire town’s driveway in February of last year, may contain information about the origin of the planet’s vast oceans.
According to Ashley King, a researcher from the Natural History Museum’s planetary materials division, water made up 13% of the sample.
He said that water’s chemical makeup is strikingly similar to that of the oceans on Earth.
He continued by saying that it is a really strong indication that bodies like Winchcombe and asteroids played a significant role in the formation of the Earth’s oceans.
First Meteorite with Water From Outer Space
King also affirmed that Winchcombe marked the first occasion a meteorite containing extraterrestrial water had fallen in the UK, albeit trapped in minerals.
He added that the half-kilogram meteorite was not contaminated by water or other substances from Earth because it was recovered so quickly-within about 12 hours.
According to King, scientists always attempt to match the composition of Earthly water with that of meteorites and other extraterrestrial materials.
Winchcombe is strong evidence because experts are confident that it hasn’t been artificially contaminated, which is a challenge for most meteorites.
Earth’s Water Origins
King went on to say that where the Earth’s water comes from is one of the major open questions in planetary sciences. And one of the obvious routes is either through asteroids or comets with a ton of ice in them.
He pointed out that it has long been disputed whether asteroids or comets are the primary sources of material for the earth.
The structure of the water in Winchcombe meteorite is a much better match for the water on Earth, he continued, so that would suggest that asteroids – carbonaceous asteroids – were likely the primary source of water to the inner solar system, including the Earth. He explained that data from missions and research on and about comets suggests the water in the meteorite is not a good match for the water on Earth.
King added that he and his associates had a clue that some of the asteroids match back to the Earth very well. A recent meteorite that has been positively verified as having not been altered is now supporting the same claim.
Speaking at the festival’s host institution, De Montfort University, King claimed that analysis had shown the meteorite originated from an asteroid close to Jupiter.
It took approximately 300,000 years for it to reach Earth after forming roughly 4.6 billion years ago. On Earth, there are roughly 65,000 known meteorites.
The Winchcombe is the first meteorite retrieved in the UK within the past 30 years. It is also the first known carbonaceous chondrite discovered in the country.
The meteorite entered Earth’s orbit at a speed of about 31,000 mph, or 40 times faster than the speed of sound, according to astronomers. It then dramatically burned up and fragmented into smaller pieces.
However, unlike most shooting stars, the said meteorite was large enough that some pieces survived as it entered the atmosphere on February 28, 2021, at 21:54 as it streaked across Gloucestershire, Daily Mail reports.