Just How Old is the Water on Earth

July 5, 2017

Did you know that some of the water on Earth could be older than the sun itself? Scientists estimate that there are water molecules on our planet that date back up to 4.6 billion years, predating the formation of the Milky Way.

According to The Huffington Post, a significant portion of the water we encounter in our daily lives, whether it’s for drinking, bathing, or swimming, actually originated from space. This water not only did not originate on Earth but also predates the formation of our planet.

But how did scientists determine the age of our water?

Determining the age of water molecules may sound peculiar since they all appear to have the same composition: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, researchers delved deeper into the elements that make up these molecules.

It all began with scientists attempting to determine the age of the solar system. They focused on studying the levels of hydrogen and deuterium in interstellar ice. Deuterium is a “heavy hydrogen” isotope that contains an additional neutron. This isotope can only form in extremely cold temperatures, such as those found in the vacuum of space.

Next, scientists created a computer model to simulate the conditions present during the formation of the Milky Way. The aim was to investigate whether the sun could have generated enough energy to produce deuterium levels observed in interstellar ice and some water on Earth.

The results indicated that the sun alone could not generate sufficient amounts of deuterium to explain the observed levels. Consequently, scientists concluded that the majority of water containing this “heavy hydrogen” must have originated from space, predating the formation of our solar system.

What implications does this have for us?

The presence of “heavy hydrogen” in a significant portion of Earth’s water does not have a direct impact on human beings. It has always been present and will continue to be so. However, these findings have significant implications for other scientific pursuits.

According to the researchers involved in the study, as well as other experts commenting on the findings, this discovery has far-reaching implications for our search for extraterrestrial life. Water is a crucial resource for the evolution of life on a planet. Therefore, if water from space played a role in the formation of Earth, it is plausible that it also contributed to the creation of other planets within the Milky Way and beyond. This suggests that the likelihood of finding more life in the universe has increased.

This article was originally featured on Drinking Water Fountain’s blog.