Samples collected from the asteroid Itokawa by the Japanese probe Hayabusa show that Earth’s waters may have originated from the sun. This water probably fell to the ground in the form of dust particles created by the interaction of solar winds. Solar winds are charged particles that originate from the sun. Luke Daily, A planetary scientist at the University of Glasgow in the UK and lead author of the article, says:
Solar winds are streams that are often composed of hydrogen and helium and are continuously released from the sun into space. When hydrogen ions collide with an airless surface, such as the surface of an asteroid or space dust particles, they can penetrate up to a few nanometers below its surface and affect the chemical composition of the rocks.
This climatic effect of hydrogen ions over time causes oxygen atoms to be extracted from the material inside the rocks and converted into water, which is trapped inside the asteroid. This mechanism can be a missing link to justify the abundance and chemical composition of water on earth. 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, which is much more than any other planet in the entire solar system; But none of the existing theories can fully justify water on Earth.
According to the prevailing view, carbon-rich asteroids that hit Earth about 6.4 billion years ago brought water to Earth; But more accurate chemical analyzes of meteorites called carbonate chondrite show that the water trapped in these meteorites is not entirely consistent with the chemical footprint of water on Earth.
The difference in isotopic composition led researchers to believe that there is at least one other source of liquid water on Earth. Isotopes are different forms of the same chemical element that differ only in the number of neutrons. Carbonated chondrites usually have water with more deuterium. Deuterium is a form of hydrogen atom with a neutron; Hydrogen on Earth, called protium, is lighter and has no neutrons.
A team of researchers looking for other sources of water on Earth used a new method called atomic cross-sectional analysis to analyze the composition of a silicon-rich asteroid rock type. They used this technique to measure the atomic structure of these particles to discover independent water molecules. The samples analyzed in this study were taken from the asteroid Itokawa, which was visited by the Japanese probe Hayabusa and returned to Earth in 2010.
A fragment of the asteroid Itokawa
Phil Bland, The director of the Center for Space Technology and Science at Curtin University in Australia and one of the authors of the new study, says:
With this method, we can take a closer look at the first fifty nanometers or surface area of Itokawa dust particles. The asteroid orbits the sun in 18-month cycles. The amount of water in this asteroid probably reaches 20 liters per cubic meter of rock.
Particles produced by the interaction of Itokawa dust with solar winds have lighter hydrogen than carbon-rich asteroids. Bland adds:
Evidence suggests that larger particles that reacted to solar winds and hit the earth billions of years ago could be the source of lost water storage on Earth.
However, this research is not just about land; Because the findings show that water on Earth may be present in the surface rocks of many other objects, including moons and asteroids. In this case, it will be good news for human exploration deep into space; Because they can continue to search with less fear. Hoop Ishii, A geophysicist at the University of Hawaii and one of the authors of this article, says:
One of the problems of future human space exploration is the provision of sufficient water to survive and perform tasks in space; In such a way that there is no need to transfer water from the ground. It makes sense that Itokawa’s water conditions are the same as other similar worlds. This means that space explorers can access new sources of water.
The study was published Nov. 29 in the journal Nature Astronomy.