Where Did Earth's Water Originate?

From Earth's Water To Cosmic Dawn: New Tools Unveiling Astronomical Mysteries

Two new and powerful research tools are helping astronomers gain key insights needed to transform our understanding of important processes across the breadth of astrophysics. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the newly-expanded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) offer scientists vastly improved and unprecedented capabilities for frontier research.

The cutting-edge research enabled by these powerful telescope systems extends from unlocking the mysteries of star- and planet-formation processes in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, to probing the emergence of the first stars and galaxies at the Universe's "cosmic dawn," and along the way helping scientists figure out where Earth's water came from.

A trio of scientists outlined recent accomplishments of ALMA and the Jansky VLA, both of which are in the "early science" phase of their development, as construction progresses toward their completion. The astronomers spoke to the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

One exciting area where the two facilities are expected to unlock longstanding mysteries is the study of how new stars and planets form, in our own Milky Way Galaxy and in its nearby neighbors.

"These new 'eyes' will allow us to study, at unprecedented scales, the motion of gas and dust in the disks surrounding young stars, and put our theories of planet formation to the test," said David Wilner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). In addition, he added, the new telescopes will help show the first stages of planet formation - the growth of dust grains and pebbles in the disks - as well as show the gravitational interactions between the disks and new planets embedded within them.

"The power of ALMA and the expanded VLA also will allow us to study many more young stars and solar systems - probably thousands - than we could before. This will help us understand the processes that produce the huge diversity we already see in extrasolar planetary systems," Wilner said.

One set of early ALMA observations, of a disk around a young star nearly 170 light-years from Earth, promises to shed light on a much closer question - the origin of Earth's oceans. Scientists think much of our planet's water came from comets bombarding the young Earth, but aren't sure just how much.

The key clue has been the fact that our seawater contains a higher percentage of Deuterium, a heavy isotope of Hydrogen, than is found in the gas between stars in our Galaxy. That enrichment of Deuterium is thought to be caused by low-temperature chemical reactions in the cold outer regions of the disk surrounding the young sun - the region from which comets arise.

The new ALMA observations, however, show that, in a disk surrounding the young star TW Hydrae, Deuterium also is found in the warmer region closer to the star.

"With further studies like this, we are on the path to more precisely measuring the percentage of Earth's ocean water that might have come from comets," Wilner said. Wilner worked with Karin Oberg and Chunhua Qi, also of CfA, and Michiel Hogerhejde of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, on this research.
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In writing and reading about water our train of thought is always on its condition here. It's potability, cleanliness, availability and access. However, I do believe that in order to truly appreciate this life giving liquid on Earth we also need to understand where Earth's water came from. There are a couple of theories, but the most prominent among them is that the Earth's oceans were basically formed not only from a cooling Earth after the "big bang," but that water is plentiful in our universe surrounding the dusty rings of forming stars and is also plentiful in comets that collided with Earth thus forming our oceans. That it literally fell from the heavens.

How fascinating to be able to discover just how much a part we as humans are of the cosmos. Carl Sagan stated, "The cosmos is also within us, we're made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself." There is no mistaking our oneness with water. It is us and we are part of it. Therefore, to discover that our oceans were indeed born from that cosmos would be a true revelation for our future, if we use that information humanely and wisely.

We have just begun to explore and discover our beginnings and those of our universe. If anything, these answers will also hopefully bring about a revelation of the soul and a change in how we see and use this most mystical life fluid.

More information :
Evidence Of Liquid In Comets Reveals Possible Origin Of Life

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Oceans of Water in Planet-Forming Disk Around Nearby Star

There is no mistaking the awesome power we are part of.