Extra-terrestrial water has been found for the first time in a meteorite that landed in the United Kingdom last year. The meteorite crashed into a driveway in Gloucestershire town in February 2021, and it is believed to hold clues about where the water in the Earth's vast oceans came from.
According to The Independent, Ashley King, a researcher in the planetary materials group at the Natural History Museum, informed that around 12% of the sample was made up of water and it is also the least contaminated specimen to be collected to date. He said that the meteorite offers a lot of insights and added that the composition of that water is "very, very similar" to the composition of water in the Earth's oceans.
"It's a really good piece of evidence that asteroids and bodies like Winchcombe made a very important contribution to the Earth's oceans," Mr King told British Science Festival, as per the outlet.
Further, Mr King confirmed that it was the first time a meteorite containing extra-terrestrial water - even though locked up in minerals - had fallen in the United Kingdom. He even explained that because the 0.5kg space rock was retrieved quickly - within 12 hours - it was not contaminated by water and materials on Earth.
Now "one of the big questions we have in planetary sciences is where did the water on Earth come from? And one of the obvious places is either through comets that have loads and loads of ice in them, or asteroids. There's always a debate - were comets the main source, were asteroids the main source?" Mr King said, according to Sky News.
However, the researcher explained that data from missions to comets suggest that they are not a good match for the water on Earth. "The composition of the water in Winchcombe is a much better match, so that would imply that asteroids - carbonaceous asteroids - were probably the main source of water to the inner solar system, to the Earth," he stated.
Mr King went on to reveal that the meteorite came from an asteroid somewhere near Jupiter. He informed that it formed around 4.6 billion years ago and its journey to Earth took approximately 300,000 years.