… Even where we didn’t think it should be
When the Earth formed it could not have had water. It was simply too hot at that part of the early system. Instead water probably condensed on comets and the general consensus is that water was brought to Earth through collisions with these comets. However new research adds another dimension. The water we have now may have been around long before the solar system was even formed.
This means that come of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created more than 4.5 billion years— even older than the sun itself. In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers say the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth and throughout the solar system could occur only if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets and asteroids. This primordial water makes up 30% to 50% of the water on Earth.
This finding suggests that water, a key ingredient of life, may be common in young planetary systems across the universe. Think about that next time you turn on your facet.
It might be a dead planet now, but it was probably a lush and active planet in its infancy. Mars is well know now as the dry, cold, red planet, but back in the early solar system everything was different. It was probably wet, probably had an atmosphere. So, what would a habitable, watery Mars look like? Perhaps it looked like this cloud-covered lake scene.
Take a look as the movie soars across the ancient Martian, flying over lakes (which may have existed on a young, thick-atmosphered Mars) and mountainous canyons, and watch as it slowly transforms into the red, rocky planet today.
Here is the modern ‘pale blue dot’ as taken by the Cassini spacecraft recently.
Pretty impressive that we can even make out the Earth in an image like this. The original ‘pale blue dot’ was part of an even more impressive mission, Voyager.
Voyager is now over 16 light hours from Earth – that is, it takes 16 hours for the signal from voyager to make it back to Earth. Last week one of the instrument team members came into my office and showed me data that had just arrived in. This data showed wild variations in the magnetic field, systematic of voyager leaving the Sun’s influence and moving into the no man’s land of space. It was amazing to see this first hand. The full story is on NPR, including clips from the famous golden record. Have a listen. 10 years from now there will be insufficient power to keep transmitting the signal back to Earth, but voyager will keep going. Forever a testament to Man’s ingenuity.
It has to end somewhere. Scientifically the solar system has more than one end point. More correctly the sun has more than one end point. The sun gives off a constant steam of particles. At earth we are inside this stream, so even here we are still in the sun. The latest new from the voyager mission is has now reached a new boundary, 11 billion miles from earth. Eventually the stream of particles from the sun hits interstellar space and slows down. Other changes, in the magnetic field strength and direction should also happen. Voyager will keep going and going, so it will be become the first man made object to leave the Sun. The big question is, with only a few dozen years of battery left, will we know when it does so?