All water on Earth is older than our sun, say scientists

Our planet is an ocean world and we are water people. Precisely 70.8% of the Earth’s surface is oceans, which contain 97% of the Earth’s water. About 55-60% of our body is made up of water.

Where does water originally come from? It probably first arrived here on icy asteroids and comets from the icy reaches of the solar system, but even if that’s true, it’s only the final piece of the puzzle. Did it exist in space before the birth of the Sun?

Yes, says new research published today in Nature, which reveals that water has been found for the first time around a young star. Scientists have found at least 1,200 times the amount of water in all of Earth’s oceans around a protostar – a very young star in the early stages of its evolution – 1,305 light-years away in the constellation of Orion.

This lends credence to the theory that water comes from the interstellar medium – the gaseous, dusty regions of space between stars. This indicates that the water in our solar system formed billions of years before the Sun.

“We used to be able to relate Earth to comets and protostars to the interstellar medium, but we couldn’t relate protostars to comets,” said John Tobin, astronomer at the National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the main author. “It is confirmation of the idea that the water of planetary systems formed billions of years ago, before the Sun, in interstellar space, and was inherited both by comets and Earth, relatively unchanged.”

The new research essentially reveals the travel of water from star-forming gas clouds to planets. The water was found in the star’s circumstellar disk (or “planet-former”) by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio observatory in Chile.

However, it was the star’s unique status that made this science possible. V883 Ori is a protostar just hot enough for the water around it to turn into gas much further away than most stars – and therefore more easily visible to radio telescopes. In most star systems, water exists in the form of ice, which is impossible for radio telescopes to detect.

“If the snow line is located too close to the star, there is not enough gaseous water to be easily detected, and the dusty disk may block much of the water emission,” said Tobin. “But if the snow line is located farther from the star, there is enough carbonated water to be detectable, and that is the case with V883 Ori.”

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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