How did the Earth get its water? The answer might be found on Mercury

A bright young star shines Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I don’t know if you’ve noticed by now, but the Earth is a little bit wet. How Earth got all its water is one of the major mysteries in the formation of the solar system, and a team of Japanese researchers have just uncovered a major clue. But not on Earth – the clue is on Mercury.

Continue reading “How did the Earth get its water? The answer might be found on Mercury”

Organic Matter Could Have Delivered Earth’s Water

This view of Earth’s horizon was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station, using a wide-angle lens while the Station was over the Pacific Ocean. A new study suggests that Earth's water didn't all come from comets. Credit: NASA
This view of Earth’s horizon was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station, using a wide-angle lens while the Station was over the Pacific Ocean. A new study suggests that Earth's water didn't all come from comets. Credit: NASA

The origin of Earth’s water is a big piece of the puzzle in Earth’s history. Did it come from comets and asteroids? From water-bearing space dust? The scientific debate is not settled.

Now a new study shows that water could have been delivered to Earth by organic matter.

Continue reading “Organic Matter Could Have Delivered Earth’s Water”

The Moon Might Be More Metal-Rich Than We Thought

The Moon contains more metal than previously thought, according to a new study. Is it time to re-think the giant impact hypothesis? Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

A new study shows that the Moon is more metal-rich than previously thought. That has some far-reaching implications for our understanding of the Moon’s formation. If their results are solid, it means that we may need to re-think the giant impact hypothesis for the formation of the Moon.

Continue reading “The Moon Might Be More Metal-Rich Than We Thought”

Deep Down in Ocean Worlds, it’s Difficult to Tell Where the Oceans End and the Rock Begins

This artist’s concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. The composition of such water worlds has fascinated astronomers and astrophysicists for years. (Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech.)

We all know what water is. And what rock is. The difference is crystal clear. Well, here on Earth it is.

But on other worlds? The difference might not be so clear.

Continue reading “Deep Down in Ocean Worlds, it’s Difficult to Tell Where the Oceans End and the Rock Begins”

The Bare Minimum Number of Martian Settlers? 110

Artist's concept of a habitat for a Mars colony. Credit: NASA

So you want to colonize Mars, huh? Well Mars is a long ways away, and in order for a colony to function that far from Earthly support, things have to be thought out very carefully. Including how many people are needed to make it work.

A new study pegs the minimum number of settlers at 110.

Continue reading “The Bare Minimum Number of Martian Settlers? 110”

Space Dust Delivered Water to Vesta, Could it Have Done the Same for Earth?

An artful image of dwarf planet Vesta, with an image of micrometeorite overlaid. Image Credit: Ogliore Lab

One of the most enduring questions about Earth regards the origins of its water. Where did it come from? One widely-held theory gives comets the honor of bringing water to Earth. Another one says that Earth’s water came when a protoplanet crashed into early Earth, not only delivering a vast quantity of water, but creating the Moon.

Now a new study shows that the minor planet Vesta got its water from space dust. Could that help explain the origin of Earth’s water?

Continue reading “Space Dust Delivered Water to Vesta, Could it Have Done the Same for Earth?”

3 Billion Years Ago, the World Might Have Been a Waterworld, With No Continents At All

Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Evidence from an ancient section of the Earth’s crust suggest that Earth was once a water-world, some three billion years ago. If true, it’ll mean scientists need to reconsider some thinking around exoplanets and habitability. They’ll also need to reconsider their understanding of how life began on our planet.

Continue reading “3 Billion Years Ago, the World Might Have Been a Waterworld, With No Continents At All”

Water Vapor Was Just Found on Europa, More Evidence There’s Liquid Water Beneath All that Ice

The fascinating surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. This is the color view of Europa from Galileo that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

What’s been long-suspected has now been confirmed: Jupiter’s moon Europa has water. As we’ve learned more about the outer Solar System in recent years, Europa has become a high-priority target in the search for life. With this discovery, NASA has just painted a big red bulls-eye on Jupiter’s smallest Galilean moon.

Continue reading “Water Vapor Was Just Found on Europa, More Evidence There’s Liquid Water Beneath All that Ice”

Water Discovered in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet in the Habitable zone. It Might Be Rain

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. UCL researchers used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and developed open-source algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere. The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapour, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet’s atmosphere.

Astronomers using the Hubble space telescope have discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in its star’s habitable zone. If confirmed, it will be the first time we’ve detected water—a critical ingredient for life as we know it—on an exoplanet. The water was detected as vapour in the atmosphere, but the temperature of the planet means it could sustain liquid water on its surface, if it’s rocky.

Continue reading “Water Discovered in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet in the Habitable zone. It Might Be Rain”

Hayabusa1’s Samples of Itokawa Turned up Water That’s Very Similar to Earth’s Oceans

Detailed view of the likely contact binary asteroid 25143 Itokawa visited by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa in 2005. Credit: JAXA

Right now, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA)
Hayabusa2 spacecraft is busy exploring the asteroid 162173 Ryugu. Like it’s predecessor, this consists of a sample-return mission, where regolith from the asteroid’s surface will be brought back home for analysis. In addition to telling us more about the early Solar System, these studies are expected to shed light on the origin of Earth’s water (and maybe even life).

Meanwhile, scientists here at home have been busy examining the samples returned from 25143 Itokawa by the Hayabusa1 spacecraft. Thanks to a recent study by a pair of cosmochemists from Arizona State University (ASU), it is now known that this asteroid contained abundant amounts of water. From this, the team estimates that up to half the water on Earth could have come from asteroid and comet impacts billions of years ago.

Continue reading “Hayabusa1’s Samples of Itokawa Turned up Water That’s Very Similar to Earth’s Oceans”