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marketrent OP t1_j1zc2a7 wrote

Laura Bandell, 19 December 2022.


>Earth formed in the dry inner Solar System. It would have remained inhospitable and lifeless, had water not been transported to it by asteroids that originated in the outer Solar System.

>Using world-class oxygen isotope analysis facilities at The Open University (OU), an international team (Team Kochi) has been studying precious samples returned to Earth in 2020 from asteroid 162173 Ryugu by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

>The results of this new study clearly show that the Ryugu particles are a very close match to a rare group of water-rich meteorites known as the CIs (Ivuna type)1. CIs are extremely fragile materials and normally fragment during atmospheric entry and so, generally, fail to make it to the Earth’s surface as recoverable samples.


>Identification of asteroid Ryugu as a CI-type body suggests that this group is much more widespread amongst the asteroid population than its limited presence in our meteorite collections suggests.

>This new finding has important implications for how Earth got its water, because CIs are also the most water-rich meteorite group we know of.

>Dr Richard Greenwood, who led the analysis work at the OU explains further:

>”Our results demonstrate that the material collected from asteroid Ryugu is closely similar to the composition of those early hydrated asteroids that brought life-giving water to Earth. In a very real sense, these “killer” asteroids saved planet Earth.”

Nature Astronomy, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01824-7


Austiniuliano t1_j1zk1if wrote

This is dope. Can someone explain tho. If water is in asteroids which is H2O… wouldn’t that mean the O has to come from somewhere else. I get that it is most likely formed from nuclear fusion and an exploding star.

But that would mean these asteroids that form could have landed all over and there should be oxygen on multiple other planets.

So like more evidence that life should be on other planets correct?


Chichachachi t1_j1zl6ch wrote

All the oxygen on earth was pulled out by bacteria. The earth was anaerobic until about 2.5 billion years ago, when bacteria started to excrete oxygen as waste. We got to high levels by about 2 bya. Also, oxygen is toxic and it's why things rust and why our skin ages so quickly. But it's like rocket fuel so life took advantage.


HerbaciousTea t1_j205ob8 wrote

The great oxidation event likely also triggered a massive planet wide extinction event, since oxygen is so reactive.

I think there's a pretty good argument that an oxidation event is one of the hard steps that could comprise the Great Filter.


guynamedjames t1_j205odu wrote

Yup, while free atmospheric oxygen is technically stable it's very reactive with most things, especially when you give it a little energy. Since life requires a ton of complex and ever changing chemical reactions to take place it really helps to have a reservoir of a very reactive substance around at all times. This also means that most atmospheric oxygen is one half of a reaction to free up chemical potential energy. So having an atmosphere made of half a battery isn't a bad thing either when talking about complex life.


kobeyoboy t1_j1zwitr wrote

So Stop Breathing to keep skin young? Thanks


-BrilliantParking- t1_j206x2l wrote

More like cover yourself in cling film to keep your skin young


GeauxAllDay t1_j20bk2o wrote

Oxygen is good for your lungs but bad for your skin


PeakFuckingValue t1_j20kjz0 wrote

Maybe going aquatic will dilute it enough. It's gill time


fyigamer t1_j23rp7i wrote

Oddly enough several sea creatures do live a very long time. I wonder if this is why


dion_o t1_j213bpx wrote

Been doing that for years boss.


Dantexr t1_j27fz60 wrote

I think that if you stop breathing you will not age anymore


Rhondajeep t1_j22zjqs wrote

What would happen if we transplanted those organisms to Mars, could we ADD oxygen to another planet?


Austiniuliano t1_j24mik1 wrote

There is a cool animated explanation and that is one of the steps.

Short answer is we would need to to Teriform mars but one downside is that a disease could wipe out a whole species and throw off the balance. So it would be doable but difficult


Frankeman t1_j283l5m wrote

To my understanding: yes, but there are two major problems:

  • You'll need a huge number of bacteria to make a difference. Even doing that on Earth will be tricky. What helps of course us that they multiply themselves, but it will take a while nevertheless
  • The atmosphere of Mars is very thin due to the absence of a magnetic field. Even if you are able to produce much oxygen, most of it will get ionised by radiation and will be lost eventually

However, the bacteria themselves should be able to survive out there on Mars, if not thrive. They are crazily resilient


Yellow_XIII t1_j225kd3 wrote

So you're telling me the very atmosphere we need to sustain life and the very air all animals breathe... is nothing more than bacteria farts?


Bascna t1_j22bw0o wrote

Yep. Those little critters were serious terraformers.


Maezel t1_j26xn8z wrote

Oh the circle of life... Bacteria oxygen waste triggers a massive extinction. A few billion years later, lifeforms that benefit from oxygen and produce co2 waste trigger another massive extinction.


amitym t1_j1zzjc3 wrote

>there should be oxygen on multiple other planets

There is. There's tons of oxygen, on every planet. Oxygen galore.

It's just all locked up in various forms, like water or CO₂ gas or solid rocks.

It's free oxygen (O₂) that is unique to Earth. And water or not, it wouldn't even exist here if it weren't for living things.

The big question with this new theory is, if these asteroids could have landed all over ... where is all the water on multiple other planets?


Karcinogene t1_j20mjwu wrote

Mercury gets too hot for water, but there is some ice in dark polar craters. Venus has water clouds, but it's also too hot so most of it boiled away. Mars has plenty of water frozen at its poles. According to this article, the asteroid belt would also have lots of ice.

Other than Io, every solid object beyond Mars is completely covered in miles of ice.

There's water everywhere.


amitym t1_j20vqac wrote

Water doesn't just "boil away," though. Boiled water becomes part of the atmosphere. It's still there. Of course in the case of Mercury there is no atmosphere at all anymore. But Venus doesn't have that problem, yet it has only a small fraction of the water Earth has. Unless there's more water hidden somewhere.

Similarly, with Mars, the poles have managed to retain water ice over several billion years without all sublimating away.. so given that water is actually apparently stable on Mars over the very long term, where is the rest of it? Why aren't the polar ice sheets more extensive?

And.. I don't know about every object... the dwarf planets do not seem to be covered in water ice at all. The outer planetary moons probably didn't develop their watery crusts or interiors via asteroid impacts. Although maybe indirectly via water ice asteroid capture?


tarrox1992 t1_j210fz5 wrote

>Pluto is about two-thirds the diameter of Earth's Moon and probably has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice. Interesting ices like methane and nitrogen frost coat the surface. Due to its lower density, Pluto's mass is about one-sixth that of Earth's Moon.

>We know very little about Eris' internal structure.

>Eris most likely has a rocky surface similar to Pluto

The only dwarf planet composition that we are even slightly sure about seems to show that it is, like the other commenter said, covered in miles of ice.


amitym t1_j211l7g wrote

Surface methane and nitrogen ice. Not water ice. Mantle of water ice is not "covered in miles of ice." It's almost the opposite. Pluto looks more like it was an ice asteroid than that it was hit by ice asteroids.

I'm not saying that ice asteroids don't exist. I'm saying that if everything in the solar system got its water from the impact of ubiquitous water ice asteroids, there should be more signs.


Eggplantosaur t1_j23odnf wrote

Should I let the researchers know you figured it out or will you contact them yourself?


amitym t1_j2f5vsz wrote

"Mantle" is the inside, not the outside. I wouldn't think that needs to be explained but here we are.


Austiniuliano t1_j1zzvt2 wrote

Oh, thank you! That is a much more interesting question. I’ll admit that I don’t know enough to ask the right questions but I find space so interesting.


amitym t1_j20060l wrote

I'm sure there are dumb questions in the world but yours was not one of them!

It's not always obvious where this stuff goes, or how things work on other planets. We just recently learned about a whole new kind of natural chemical process when we saw it happening on Venus... until then no one knew that that particular kind of geochemistry was possible. (I forget the details but it was somewhere on this subreddit a while back.)


Grinch83 t1_j22uybg wrote

Okay, I’ll try to throw one of the dumb questions of the world at you…

It’s easy enough to wrap my head around the idea that “x” wasn’t here before, but then a giant rock hurled from space crashed into the planet and brought it here.

But how did we get so much water from this asteroid(s)? In other words, how did we go from a relative puddle of water from the asteroid impact…to 72% of the earth’s surface covered in water?


amitym t1_j22yha5 wrote

Haha still not dumb. So many people wonder about stuff like that, someone made a graphic. Here's a great way to visualize the answer:

Basically... it's less water than you think. Because water, being water, tends to spread out flat. And the Earth is actually pretty smooth.

We think of all these tall mountains and deep chasms and stuff but they're only tall and deep from our human-scale perspective. From the perspective of the whole volume of the Earth, they are the teensiest aberrations. The depths are barely deep enough to get wet.


Grinch83 t1_j230qan wrote

Ahhh, ok ok. Reading your response, I actually do remember hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson saying something along the lines of “if you could hold earth in your hand, at scale, it would feel & appear as smooth as a billiard ball.”

So operating under the assumption that this water asteroid hypothesis is correct, can we also safely assume the asteroid was roughly the size of the largest sphere in the graphic you provided? And all of the water currently on earth came from this event?

Even with your great response and visualization aid, it’s still mind bending to think about! (And that’s not even going into the odds of such an asteroid, making impact with such a planet…and a few billion years later, two descendants of this event discussing it over the internet.)

Awesome stuff; thank you for taking the time to respond! Totally understand if you don’t want to get too deep into the weeds with me here, so no worries on answering the above. But if you have other reading material for me, I’d love it if you could pass it along. I’m super intrigued. :)


85423610 t1_j1zkv1w wrote

Yes you are right, however oxygen & Hydrogen would still need the right conditions to maintain long enough for life to evolve. Also radiation is a big factor. And many more.

But yes, this would in theory reflect a higher probability of planets having water resources avaible even though we would believe it wouldnt be the case from formation. Then we move onto the questions of what does a planet require to maintain it +what ither pre-quistes are there for life.


citro-naut t1_j227r75 wrote

Most of the oxygen on earth is locked away in the rocks and minerals that make up the earth itself! The free oxygen in the earths atmosphere is almost entirely created by life. The first life forms on earth were not aerobic and didn’t use oxygen to metabolize.


FluffyGarbage23 t1_j20gc4g wrote

What I dont get is how many (or big) asteroids would've had to cross its path with Earth, enough to create all the water that eventually enabled life to exist. Theyre not exactly water balloons filled to the brim with water.

How much water is in an asteroid, and how many did make it through the atmosphere? Earth must've been bombarded every second for however many years, and likely other planets like Mars as well.

Except Mars had a different fate than ours unfortunately.


tarrox1992 t1_j20jlvl wrote

Ceres could be up to 25% water.

An asteroid (well, it'd be a dwarf planet) composed only of water-ice with the same mass of Earth's water would, presumably, be slightly larger than those spheres. Because water expands as it freezes and a dwarf planet would be at least partially frozen.

So, looking at the size of Ceres compared to Earth/Earth's water, I'd assume that we'd only need 5-6 bodies similar to Ceres to fill us up.

They think there is more than twice the amount of water on Europa than on Earth. Not even mentioning the other very wet moons of the outer planets. The article here believes Earth water came from the outer solar system, and, looking at all the information here, it should be easy to see that some asteroids are basically water balloons. Even if they aren't, there are still plenty of water rich bodies the Earth could have amassed.

edit: typos


citro-naut t1_j228qqb wrote

While we don’t know for sure, water probably makes up something like 0.05% of earths mass, which is not that much at all! And in fact, you can easily acquire this much water by only accreting the driest types of planetary building materials (eg enstatite chondrites) without needing any contribution from the water-rich bodies discussed in this article. Though, these water-rich bodies almost certainly did deliver some fraction of earths volatiles!


Imeanttodothat10 t1_j1zxhuu wrote

That article is awesome. Thanks for sharing. It does say though that the water in the mantle comes from water soaked ocean floor being recycled into the mantle from seismic activity, so it's not at odds with op. This is really cool stuff.


Phenotyx t1_j207h9m wrote

It’s confirmed that a majority of the water on earth has come from external sources.

What you’re referencing simply indicates that the water was deep within the earth very early on, which is true.

When the earth was very young, and still red hot molten rock, it was being bombarded by asteroids. Jupiter was wreaking havoc on the early asteroid belt sending rock every direction, many of them hit earth and were essentially absorbed into the then molten rock. Over millions of years as the earth cooled that rock sunk into the deeper layers (mantle) of the earth and rose again, depositing the materials, including water molecules. The thin outer layer that we call the crust cooled.

The water molecules only were released via volcanic activity, the first storms on earth raged for, we believe, millions of years. That’s how much water was initially released via volcanoes. Insane to consider.


Pm_me_some_green_tea t1_j22ufo0 wrote

My understanding is that even current volcanic eruption ejecta is 75% water


Phenotyx t1_j24al78 wrote

Yeah wasn’t saying the composition changed, it could’ve I honestly don’t know.

Was more speaking about the shear volume of volcanic activity in the early stages of earth.

Must’ve been really cool if you could watch the solar system forming from like a light year away with a telescope.


wesphilly06 t1_j1zjx5l wrote

I wonder if I would be possible to mimic water rich asteroids and terraform a planet or moon by launching our own or redirecting an existing one to another “dry planet”.

I don’t understand the science but fascinating nonetheless


Padhome t1_j2053f6 wrote

That planet or moon would have to have a functioning magnetic field and consistent temperature. The farthest you could probably make it work is Jupiter, and even then those moons are covered in it's shadow for a long time and are bombarded by its deadly radiation.

That leaves Mars, which can't sustain an atmosphere because of it's weak magnetic fields, and was actually once like Earth but could not support itself, or Venus, which is a sulfur acid hellscape of unimaginable atmospheric pressure, and is surprisingly the best option considering it's the closest thing we have to a twin.

I don't know throwing water rocks at it would help much though.


Call_In_The_Bin t1_j22fwyg wrote

It wouldn't keep an atmosphere in the geological long term, but in the human short term it would work fine.


1wiseguy t1_j20g9dy wrote

If you want to transport water or gases from Earth to Mars, the amount of mass necessary to make a minimal atmosphere or any kind of ground water is staggering and impossible.

Steering an asteroid or comet to collide with Mars is also quite a trick, and finding one that's headed roughly for Mars could take quite a while.

These things are great for a sci-fi story, but in the real world we have laws of physics that we must answer to.


carpiediem t1_j24t3gc wrote

I don't think anyone is suggesting bringing it from Earth. You're right that comets would be tricky, but we can manage a lot when given a millennium or two.


Probably_Not_Evil t1_j204s2u wrote

If you enjoy sci-fi, you might check out Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. There's some terraforming in the book similar to what you're describing.


chamax15 t1_j207a94 wrote

Loved that book. Especially the first half.


carpiediem t1_j24t7jo wrote

Blue Mars has a great terraforming plot too.


MechanicalFetus t1_j20552z wrote

Sounds fun to me. You think it would be cool to nuke the poles of Mars to see if we could spread out/vaporize some of that solid ice? I also love the idea of using Nukes to dig a 32km hole on Mars to create a depth and pressure of 1 equivalent earth atmosphere


i81u812 t1_j1zi1kq wrote

This is - absolutely fascinating, actual proof that this is what happened - and has no comments @ 50 minutes because it isn't click bait. ON SPACE no less.


Tip_Odde t1_j1zkdux wrote

It always amazes me that people dont realize how comments like this out them as exactly the type of person theyre crying about. The reason you assume other people skip nonclickbait headlines is because you know you do


PhoenixReborn t1_j220fxy wrote

The chemistry is quite beyond me, but I don't see how this is "actual proof that this is what happened." As far as I can tell, they identified that this asteroid is similar to other water-rich asteroids and more intact than samples fallen to Earth. It suggests this type of asteroid is more common than previously thought. I'm not seeing the conclusive evidence here of the origin of water on Earth.


Time-Garbage- t1_j1zk19r wrote

Meteor Crater has to be seen in person to grasp how huge it is


jettatom t1_j1zt3tu wrote

I agree. I’ve been to the one in Arizona and it is absolutely enormous


MoreGull t1_j20xacg wrote

It is awesome. Even more so, the asteroid that made that crater wasn't that big. 160 feet across.


WillingnessOk3081 t1_j1zrgtr wrote

very simple question from somebody who knows nothing, but how does water survive the enormously high temperatures of entry in the atmosphere to the earth’s crust?


RipleyKY t1_j1zz8w2 wrote

There wasn’t much of an atmosphere to begin with. We wouldn’t even have much of an atmosphere without water vapor. Early Earth would have been essentially a ball of molten rock/lava.

Over billions of years, Earth was impacted by asteroids (and is theorized that Earth had an impact with another proto-planet that formed our moon). Those asteroids deposited key elements (hydrogen, helium, oxygen, ie water) and its impact trapped them deep into Earths mantle.

Over time the planet experienced fewer outer body impacts and cooled to form our crust. Yet, volcanic activity allowed for those elements previously trapped to release in the forms of carbon dioxide, ammonia, and water vapor. The release of these key elements subsequently formed our atmosphere, and allowed our oceans to form as well.


WillingnessOk3081 t1_j200sim wrote

this is a very helpful explanation. thank you! also very cool to think about.


citro-naut t1_j2262kn wrote

Yes. We measure water in meteorites that have survived atmospheric entry. A tremendous amount of mass (including water) is lost (vaporized) during entry but most of it should be retained in the atmosphere.


Lethalfurball t1_j1zj02t wrote

somethings aliivvee in the ocean


oh cool like a plant or an animal?

no its a microscopic speck

it lives at the bottom of the ocean eating chemical soup made of gnarly space ingredients back when it was raining rocks or whatever


GeauxAllDay t1_j20bg5w wrote

Could we create artificial versions of this asteroid to assist in Terraforming? Forgive me if I sound ill-informed, but I'm genuinely curious- would it be possible to create some kind of Rocket-propelled body and slam it into the surface of a similar planet with the right conditions for habitability and put it on the path of bearing life?


SparseGhostC2C t1_j1zt1bq wrote

So how do we go from whatever "original" ice ball asteroid impacted earth however many bya to having enough water to cover the majority of the earth's surface?

Like surely that one asteroid, or the small number of them that have made it to Earth's surface during its lifetime, were not sufficient to generate all the water we have here. I'm honestly curious where it came from or how we got so much, was it generated here by some kind of chemistry or was it all deposited from space?


FluffyGarbage23 t1_j20hewe wrote

Im curious as well. It wouldve been millions, or billions, or trillions of asteroids large enough to not break up, but large enough to "survive" an impact with Earth for long enough to not get instantly evaporated by proto-Earth lavas and what not.

Its not exactly like theyre balloons filled up with water being thrown at Earth, theyre mostly just rock, minerals and metals.

Unless we got lucky and got a bunch of massive ice-asteroids.


SparseGhostC2C t1_j20i498 wrote

Another reply to me had suggested much of it may have come along during the Theia impact which lead to the creation of the moon, since the object that would have collided with earth would've been much larger than your average asteroid or meteor. It sounds totally plausible but I'm still very curious to find more info.


citro-naut t1_j227b6e wrote

Keep in mind that once earth became sufficiently large, even volatiles that were vaporized would still be retained. Just think about how we can boil water today and it’s not like the water vapor disappears to space.


citro-naut t1_j2273gz wrote

Earth formed by the accretion of countless small bodies ranging in size from pebbles to Nara-sized bodies. Some fraction of these planetesimals formed in the region where earth exists today (inner solar system) and likely had enough water to meet earths current inventory. Another probably smaller fraction of bodies from the outer solar system (like Ryugu and the other progenitors of CI chondrites) were also accreted and surely delivered some fraction to water. But to answer your question, earth was accreting water-bearing asteroids and planetesimals all throughout its accretionary history. It wasn’t a one-off event or even just a few random chance impacts.


Penguinkeith t1_j207k4z wrote

Theia impact probably brought most of the water if it formed in the outer solar system


autumn-knight t1_j1zwd2m wrote

This makes me wonder: if Earth was dependent on water rich asteroids to bring the water we needed to develop life... Would other planets? And, as a follow up, would that make life on other worlds more or less likely? After all, what are the chances of X number of planets being hit by Y number of water bearing asteroids?


citro-naut t1_j226fcf wrote

Life appears to be an essential ingredient for life so a planets ability to accrete and retain water is critical. But despite the assertion in this article, earth likely accreted with enough water that did not necessitate the need for extraterrestrial delivery. Though, it is highly likely that these highly volatile bodies did deliver some fraction of earths water.


Alt-One-More t1_j203d7h wrote

Hasn't recent research shown that the water on Earth doesn't match the composition of water in most solar-system comets and asteroids?

Edit: Went to double check. Water on Earth doesn't match the water in most solar system comets but does match that of asteroids like this article supports.


Feathercrown t1_j22uznr wrote

>composition of water

What do you mean by this? All water is identical chemically, unless we're talking isotopes or ions somehow.


GeorgeOlduvai t1_j205cee wrote

I flew over the crater in the pic 3 days ago. It was awesome.


CCCmonster t1_j21117z wrote

There’s too much water to think that it would have have happened with significance in more than one event.


TacoJuggler97531 t1_j22mbyx wrote

There really isn't that much water on Earth though, it only makes up 0.05% of it's mass. It might have been brought here in multiple impacts, but it makes sense to me that it could have been brought here in 1 big one as well.


Columbus43219 t1_j21dv1y wrote

I though when we measured that comet, we found it was the wrong isotope.


h4lfd34f t1_j22bact wrote

I would love to have been able to witness the accretion disc.

From like 50,000 AU

What a sight it would have been


freelikegnu t1_j1zx7y3 wrote

So a pre-Sol system super giant may have had planets with primitive life forms, then went supernova scattering biota embedded in ice in the outer area of nebula of what would become our solar system?

edit: added "planets"


Nemo_Shadows t1_j1zxix8 wrote

Well lets not forget about some of those Comets.

N. S


Albertsongman t1_j203tor wrote

6,000 years ago when Adam fed a T-Rex one of his ribs during the last ice age?!! 😬


CatharticFarts t1_j20v55j wrote

This was stupid:

"These days, asteroids get a very bad press. As depicted in blockbuster movies, such as Don’t Look Up, we see asteroids as a potential source of grave danger to humanity"

The whole point of the movie is that HUMANS have bad press - we're insanely stupid. Humans are a grave danger to humanity.


pmMeAllofIt t1_j2133l6 wrote

Not to mention it's not wrong to see cataclysmic events as a grave danger, it's not "bad press".


NewbiwanKenewbi t1_j22k2fw wrote

Bullshit. They've already found plenty of earth like planets. How did those get their water? How did Jupiters moon Europa get its water? Think!