The Meteorites That Made Earth Were Filled With Water

Water's Early Journey in a Solar System
New research suggests that Earth's building blocks included water from the beginning. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to the most widely accepted scientific theory, our Solar System formed from a nebula of dust and gas roughly 4.56 billion years ago (aka. Nebula Theory). It began when the nebula experienced gravitational collapse at the center, fusing material under tremendous pressure to create the Sun. Over time, the remaining material fell into an extended disk around the Sun, gradually accreting to form planetesimals that grew larger with time. These planetesimals eventually experienced hydrostatic equilibrium, collapsing into spherical bodies to create Earth and its companions.

Based on modern observations and simulations, researchers have been trying to understand what conditions were like when these planetesimals formed. In a new study, geologists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) combined meteorite data with thermodynamic modeling to better understand what went into these bodies from which Earth and the other inner planets formed. According to their results, the earliest planetesimals have formed in the presence of water, which is inconsistent with current astrophysical models of the early Solar System.

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Exoplanet Surveys are Leaning Towards the Possibility That our Solar System is… Normal

One of the unspoken caveats of most exoplanet discovery missions is that they only operate for a few years.  Such a short observing window means there are planets with longer orbital periods, usually further out from the star, that those surveys would completely miss.  Knowing this would be a problem, a team of astronomers arranged the California Legacy Survey three decades ago in order to monitor as many stars as possible for as long a time as possible.  Recently they released their first results, which show solar systems that are surprisingly like our own.

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