Origin of water on Earth

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The origin of water on Earth is only barely known. All life on Earth needs water, and most types of life started in the sea. Earth is the only planet known with liquid water on its surface.[1] The water on Earth may have come from the Solar System as it formed, or it may have formed on Earth. Both are possible.[2] We do know that hydrogen and oxygen, the elements that constitute water come from stars. Oxygen is created through fusion of helium and carbon atoms inside the core of red giants.

Earth is in the habitable zone, it is not so far from the Sun that all water freezes, and not so close to the Sun that all water evaporates. This is why liquid water, important for all life, still exists on the surface of Earth.

A long time ago, scientists thought that water on Earth did not come from the planet’s region of the protoplanetary disk. Instead, it was thought water must have been delivered to Earth from the outer Solar System later in its history. However, recent research suggests that hydrogen inside the Earth played a role in the formation of the ocean.[2] The two ideas are not mutually exclusive: there is evidence water was delivered to Earth by impacts from icy planetesimals similar in composition to asteroids in the outer edges of the asteroid belt.[3]

One problem that hasn't been solved is that the noble gas isotope ratios of Earth's atmosphere are different than those of its mantle. This might mean they were created from different sources.[4][5]

References[change | change source]

  1. US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Are there oceans on other planets?". oceanservice.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Monday, Nola Taylor Redd (2019). "Where did Earth's water come from". Astronomy.com. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  3. Pepin, Robert O. 1991. On the origin and early evolution of terrestrial planet atmospheres and meteoritic volatiles. Icarus. 92 (1): 2–79. Bibcode:1991Icar...92....2P. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(91)90036-s. ISSN 0019-1035
  4. Dauphas, Nicolas (2003). "The dual origin of the terrestrial atmosphere". Icarus. 165 (2): 326–339. arXiv:astro-ph/0306605. Bibcode:2003Icar..165..326D. doi:10.1016/s0019-1035(03)00198-2. ISSN 0019-1035. S2CID 14982509.
  5. Owen, Tobias; Bar-Nun, Akiva; Kleinfeld, Idit 1992. Possible cometary origin of heavy noble gases in the atmospheres of Venus, Earth and Mars. Nature 358 (#6381): p43–46. [1]