Water arrived on Earth at exactly the same time that the moon was created over 4 billion years ago, according to a new study.
This phenomenon is thought to have happened when an “ancient planet” called Theia smashed into Earth.
Planetologists at the University of Münster in Germany have collected evidence to suggest that Theia, a Mars-sized celestial object from the outer solar system, collided with Earth and enabled life on the planet. The results were published in Nature Astronomy.
This collision is said to have resulted in large quantities of water being transferred from Theia onto the Earth and forming the oceans, similar to how we know them today.
Theories suggest that Earth actually formed as a dry planet in the inner solar system so shouldn’t have had any water on it at all.
Before this Theia water hypothesis, a lot of scientists thought that water was brought to Earth by watery meteorites from the outer solar system, called “carbonaceous” meteorites.
Earlier studies have suggested that when the solar system was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, “dry” materials were separated from the “wet” materials with the dry objects, such as Earth, being in the inner solar system and therefore the “carbonaceous” meteorites theory would make sense.
Meteorites from the inner solar system at this time wouldn’t have been wet and are called “non-carbonaceous” meteorites.
However, the German scientists used a substance called molybdenum isotopes to distinguish between carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous materials on Earth to create a “genetic fingerprint” for the planet and prove whether materials came from the inner or the outer solar system.
Through this method, they found that wet “carbonaceous” material arrived on Earth late and from the outer solar system.
They argue that the only collision that could explain the amount of carbonaceous material on the planet, meaning the entire amount of water on Earth, is the Theia impact, which is thought to have also created the moon.
Both water and the moon, which stabilizes the Earth’s axis, were essential to the creation of life Earth.
Thorsten Kleine, Professor of Planetology at the University of Münster, concluded: “Our approach is unique because, for the first time, it allows us to associate the origin of water on Earth with the formation of the moon.”
“To put it simply, without the moon there probably would be no life on Earth.”
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