Much of the water on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system likely predates the birth of the sun, a new study reports.
The finding suggests that water is commonly incorporated into newly forming planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, researchers said — good news for anyone hoping that Earth isn’t the only world to host life.
“The implications of our study are that interstellar water-ice remarkably survived the incredibly violent process of stellar birth to then be incorporated into planetary bodies,” study lead author Ilse Cleeves, an astronomy Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, told Space.com via email. [Theories on the Origin of Life]
“If our sun’s formation was typical, interstellar ices, including water, likely survive and are a common ingredient during the formation of all extrasolar systems,” Cleeves added. “This is particularly exciting given the number of confirmed extrasolar planetary systems to date — that they, too, had access to abundant, life-fostering water during their formation.”
Astronomers have discovered nearly 2,000 exoplanets so far, and many billions likely lurk undetected in the depths of space. On average, every Milky Way star is thought to host at least one planet.
Water, water everywhere
Our solar system abounds with water. Oceans of it slosh about not only on Earth’s surface but also beneath the icy shells of Jupiter’s moon Europa and the Saturn satellite Enceladus. And water ice is found on Earth’s moon, on comets, at the Martian poles and even inside shadowed craters on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun.
Cleeves and her colleagues wanted to know where all this water came from.
Japan to Start Building Giant Ice Wall at Fukushima:
Japan Wants to Build an Ice Wall to Contain Fukushima’s Radioactive Water
Radioactive water full of carcinogenic chemicals is leaking out of the Fukushima power plant at a… Read more
Following examination of the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) plans to build the gigantic ice wall, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has given the go ahead for construction to commence. While similar techniques have been used in the past, it’s never been undertaken at the same scale as the proposed Fukushima plans. Speaking to PhysOrg, an anonymous official explained that:
“We had some concerns, including the possibility that part of the ground could sink. But there were no major objections to the project during the meeting, and we concluded that TEPCO can go ahead with at least part of the project as proposed after going through further necessary procedures.”
In June, then, engineers will begin building a 0.9-mile frozen wall that should stem the flow of radioactive groundwater. We’ve explained how it will work before:
The idea is to drive vertical pipes spaced about a meter apart between 20 and 40 meters into the ground and to pump coolant through them. This would effectively create a barrier of permafrost around the affected buildings, keeping the contaminated water in and groundwater out.
Despite the fact the plan is to go ahead, TEPCO may have to review other parts of the project as it progresses. There are some concerns that the ice wall may affect existing infrastructure—drains, utilities and the like—which will all have to carefully monitored once the project goes ahead.