Where did Earth get its abundant water? Was it really delivered by asteroids and comets? New evidence from Mars supports a different idea — that our planet has had its water all along, no impacts required.
As the only planet we know of with abundant oceans of liquid water on its surface, scientists have invested considerable effort into figuring out exactly where Earth’s water originated. We know that there’s water locked up in asteroids and comets. At the same time, we also know that Earth suffered heavy bombardment from these objects shortly after it formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Suggesting that there could be a possible link between these two facts isn’t too much of a stretch.
Still, it’s not the only hypothesis that’s been considered.
“There are two hypotheses about the emergence of water. One is that it arrives on planets by accident, when asteroids containing water collide with the planet in question. The other hypothesis is that water emerges in connection with the formation of the planet,” said Martin Bizzarro, from the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Star and Planet Formation, said in a press release.
Bizzarro is co-author of a new study led by Zhengbin Deng, an assistant professor at the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, which carefully examined the mineral structure of an ancient Mars meteorite known as NWA 7533 (aka “Black Beauty”). The research team’s conclusions suggest that the second hypothesis — where water is simply a natural byproduct of planet formation — may be the correct one.
Meteorite ‘Northwest Africa 7533’, discovered in Morocco in 2012, was found to be an ancient piece of the planet Mars, which was blasted into space by an immense impact before eventually crossing paths with Earth. Credit: University of Copenhagen/Deng et al.
Black Beauty was revealed to be an ancient piece of Mars after scientists examined gases trapped in bubbles inside the meteorite. Previous studies have also shown that this meteorite was ejected from the surface of Mars during an impact that took place around 4.4 billion years ago.
During their study of NWA 7533, Deng and his colleagues discovered signs that there was already water on Mars’s surface at the time of that impact.
“We have developed a new technique that tells us that Mars, in its infancy, suffered one or more severe asteroid impacts. The impact, Black Beauty reveals, created kinetic energy that released a lot of oxygen. And the only mechanism that could likely have caused the release of such large amounts of oxygen is the presence of water,” Deng said in the press release.
This false-colour elevation map of Mars reveals the likely location where the Black Beauty meteorites originated. Credit: NASA/University of Copenhagen
“If that is true, it is extremely exciting, because it means that the presence of water is a bioproduct of the planet formation process,” Bizzarro said.
A WARMER MARS?
Additionally, as study co-author Takashi Mikouchi pointed out in a University of Tokyo press release, “such an impact would have released a lot of hydrogen, which would have contributed to planetary warming at a time when Mars already had a thick insulating atmosphere of carbon dioxide.”
This combination may solve the mystery of why we see abundant evidence of liquid water on Mars’ surface, despite the planet being colder in the distant past. Any water on Mars now is either completely frozen or in the form of briny deposits buried under its thick glaciers. Billions of years ago, the Sun was even cooler than it is today and would have provided less heat to Mars. So, even with a thicker atmosphere, the planet wouldn’t have been warm enough for liquid water without some added help.
Related: ROM scientist shows off meteorites from Mars and the Moon
IMPLICATIONS FOR LIFE, HERE AND BEYOND
This new 4.4 billion year timeline for water on Mars’ surface is roughly 700 million years earlier than previous estimates. According to Bizzarro, it would have also been long before water-rich asteroids could have bombarded Mars. So, where did the water come from? This study provides a compelling answer.
“It suggests that water emerged with the formation of Mars. And it tells us that water may be naturally occurring on planets and does not require an external source like water-rich asteroids,” Bizzarro explained.
The TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, compared here to our own solar system, could be an ideal location to search for life, with three rocky planets in its ‘habitable zone’. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This shifting of the narrative for water — from an accident requiring very specific conditions to simply something that happens naturally during planet formation — could make the emergence of biological life far less complicated. This has implications for Earth and Mars, and possibly even Venus. It also could change our perspective slightly as we continue to discover more rocky planets around other stars.
If this study’s findings are correct, it becomes far more likely that most rocky exoplanets will have abundant water on their surface. Since water is essential for the development of life — at least life as we know it — that also increases our chances of discovering that we’re not alone in the universe!
Johnny Fresco closed after employee tests positive – KitchenerToday.com
A staff member at Johnny Fresco’s has tested positive for COVID-19, leading the restaurant to temporarily close its doors.
According to their Facebook post, the Waterloo restaurant was closed as of Tuesday for the safety of their customers and staff.
The affected employee was last in the restaurant during the lunch shift on Friday.
They say they will be following the guidance of Public Health, and thank the community for their support throughout the years and during this difficult time under the pandemic.
They will post an update to Facebook and Instagram once they feel its safe to reopen.
Johnny Fresco To our Friends and Customers, We are sad to announce that Johnny Fresco will be temporarily closed…
Calgary man captures photo of SpaceX Dragon docked at the International Space Station – Calgary Herald
When Shafqat Zaman takes photos of the International Space Station (ISS) from Calgary, it may help that he’s about 1 kilometre closer than photographers shooting from sea level.
However, the ISS is still about 399 kilometres away, and moving at a speed of about 7.66 kilometres per second relative to the ground. However you measure it, snapping a shot of the orbiting laboratory is an incredible feat.
Zaman captured this shot on Wednesday evening. It features a clear view of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which lifted off on Nov. 15 and docked with the station about 27 hours later. It’s the white cone-shaped object on the left side, near the middle.
This wasn’t his first snapshot of the most expensive object ever constructed. Zaman captured several images of the ISS showing different angles as it passed overhead in late September.
He also captured this stunning transit of the ISS in front of the sun.
Zaman said he uses an 8″ Meade SCT telescope with a Canon M5 camera.
Landmark wheat genome discovery could shore up global food security – New Food
Project leader, Curtis Pozniak, compares the findings to locating a missing piece of your favourite puzzle, and hopes this will transform the way wheat is grown globally.
Scientists believe the genome sequencing will lead to higher wheat yields around the world.
An international team led by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has sequenced the genomes for 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programmes around the world.
This landmark discovery will enable scientists and breeders to identify influential genes for improved yield, pest resistance and other important crop traits much more quickly.
The research results, published in Nature, provide what the research team has called the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences ever reported. The 10+ Genome Project collaboration involved more than 95 scientists from universities and institutes across Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Israel, Australia and the US.
“It’s like finding the missing pieces for your favourite puzzle that you have been working on for decades,” said project leader Curtis Pozniak, wheat breeder and director of the USask Crop Development Centre (CDC). “By having many complete gene assemblies available, we can now help solve the huge puzzle that is the massive wheat pan-genome and usher in a new era for wheat discovery and breeding.”
Scientific groups across the global wheat community are expected to use the new resource to identify genes linked to in-demand traits, such as pest and diseases resistance, which will accelerate breeding efficiency.
“This resource enables us to more precisely control breeding to increase the rate of wheat improvement for the benefit of farmers and consumers, and meet future food demands,” Pozniak added.
As one of the world’s most cultivated cereal crops, wheat plays an important role in global food security, providing about 20 percent of human caloric intake globally. The university says it’s estimated that wheat production must increase by more than 50 percent by 2050 to meet an increasing global demand – knowing which wheat genomes ‘best perform’ could be crucial in delivering this target.
The researchers explain that they were able to track the unique DNA signatures of genetic material incorporated into modern cultivars from several of wheat’s undomesticated relatives by breeders over the last century.1
“These wheat relatives have been used by breeders to improve disease resistance and stress resistance of wheat,” said Pozniak. “One of these relatives contributed a DNA segment to modern wheat that contains disease-resistant genes and provides protection against a number of fungal diseases. Our collaborators from Kansas State University and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, showed that this segment can improve yields by as much as 10 percent. Since breeding is a continual improvement process, we can continue to cross plants to select for this valuable trait.”
Pozniak’s team, in collaboration with scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and National Research Council of Canada, also used the genome sequences to isolate an insect-resistant gene (Sm1). This gene enables wheat plants to withstand the orange wheat blossom midge, a pest which can cause more than $60 million in annual losses to Western Canadian producers.1
“Understanding a causal gene like this is a game-changer for breeding because you can select for pest resistance more efficiently by using a simple DNA test than by manual field testing,” Pozniak concluded.
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