Earth looks incredible when seen from space, thanks to its blue cover of water bodies. Astronomers have captured the breathtaking beauty of our planet in countless photographs and videos. But has this planet always been like what it is today? How did 70 percent of Earth's surface get covered with water? Scientists have long argued the possibilities. A group of British scientists have now backed a long-held theory that the origin of water on Earth's surface is extraterrestrial.
The scientists supported the idea that the water on Earth is a result of comets and ice asteroids crashing down on the planet. The group's findings are based on a study of materials obtained from the 25143 Itokawa asteroid. This asteroid was discovered in 1998 and was the first from which samples were brought to Earth for analysis in 2005. The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa landed twice on the asteroid to collect a small amount of dust. It delivered the sample to Earth in 2010.
According to the study published in the Nature journal, scientists found a significant amount of water on the asteroid, raising the possibility of the presence of water in the form of ice on other planets. This also helped them conclude that the water on Earth's surface could be because of solar winds. The group said the dust particles in solar winds must have interacted with oxygen atoms in clouds and poured water on Earth.
Luke Daly, who was a part of the research team, said in a statement that while their research offers remarkable insights into Earth's past, it could also help future space missions as it may help in finding ways to make sufficient water available for astronauts, without them having to carry supplies. “Our research shows that the same space weathering process which created water on Itokawa likely occurred on other airless planets, meaning astronauts may be able to process fresh supplies of water straight from the dust on a planet's surface, such as the Moon,” Daly said.