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Saturday, April 4, 2015

WHERE DOES OUR WATER COME FROM?

In the beginning--13.8 billion years ago--there was the Big Bang, and everything was created.  Well, at least 99.9% of National Academy of Sciences members believe so, while more than half of Americans don't.  Specifically,  only 21% of Americans are extremely/very confident of this theory, and, even more shockingly, 54% are extremely/very confident that the Universe is so complex that there must have been a Supreme Being guiding its creation.  This same poll showed that 82% are extremely/very confident that smoking causes cancer.

However, for today, let us take the scientific viewpoint that our Universe expanded (above left) and we came to be.  After all, scientists know everything.  Well, maybe not, for no one has yet confirmed the existence of dark energy and matter:

So, everything we see and feel only amounts to 4.6% of what truly, really, maybe, exists.   What has all this got to do with water?

You need to understand how our solar system evolved to appreciate from where came water.  Mind you, as much as we are covered with water, the mass of our globe is 99.96% solids, with 0.04% being water.  These numbers look precise, but these are only best guesses.

One theory is that it's always been here, like Planet Earth.  Not so, for one, our globe only formed 9.2 years AFTER the Big Bang.  But, after all, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, and oxygen is #3.  Surely, at the beginning, you combine two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen and you have water.  But there is so little (yes, there is some) water on our Moon and trace amounts on Mercury and Venus,  Planet Jupiter has less water than our Sun, which  has a tiny amount as vapor in sunspots.

As our Sun formed just before Planet Earth, 4.6 billion years ago, why, then, is some of the water on our globe older than the Sun?  I will not go into molecular reasons dealing with deuterium, but the difference in something called isotopic ratios indicates that 30% to 50% our water came from somewhere else in our solar system.  

The March issue of Scientific American featured an article entitled Oceans from the Sky.  Basically, the contention is that, if water formed with "rock" on Earth, most of the fluid was cooked off, and much of the rest at the surface went with the after effects of the collision of a Mars-sized body 4.5 billion years ago, that ejected a plume of material, which, over time, coalesced into what is now our Moon.  Over those next billions of years, we got peppered with comets and asteroids, both carrying varying amounts of water.  Mind you, the largest asteroid out there, Ceres, now termed a dwarf planet, could well be almost  half water.  Thus, only five Ceres-like crashings on Earth would provide all the water suspected now to be here (where there is also no agreement on how much water is in the mantle and core--scientists have no clue on how to measure this compound below the surface).  

Further, there is no consensus today as to which--asteroids or comets--dominated, in the mission to bring us water, but a good part of our current ice, oceans, rivers and lakes must have been the result of extraterrestrial pollution.  Asteroids are mostly rocky (with exceptions) and come from the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.  Comets are mostly icy and originate further out beyond Neptune from the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt.

What makes this theory so difficult to comfortably swallow is that I haven't heard of any meteorite being found on Earth with water, but keep in mind that only 0.04% of this rock needs to be water.  Another key to visualize this scientific belief is by incorporating the dimension of time, for earliest Homo sapiens only appeared at around 3 minutes to midnight, and a lot of slightly moist asteroids and comets fell on Planet Earth for most of the this relatively long day.

Finally, how did water form in outer space? 
  • Hydrogen came with the Big Bang.
  • Oxygen was created through nucleosynthesis in large stars.
  • Combine these two under certain conditions and you have water.
  • Remember that our observable atoms in our Universe consist of 90% hydrogen (74% by weight), while oxygen is the #3 element.  Water should be abundant everywhere in our Universe.
  • Does this mean life is also omnipresent?  Well, carbon is the #4 element in our Universe.
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Super Typhoon Maysak is now only a tropical storm at 70 MPH, and is just about striking the Philippines, but reasonably north of Manila:


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