By Nicole Rodrigues, 19 Dec 2022
Have you ever taken a sip of water and wondered exactly where your supply of H2O comes from?
A new study finally has some answers, and it would seem that it is as old as the Universe.
In a paper published in GeoScienceWorld, scientists Cecilia Ceccarelli and astronomer Fujun Du. Ceccarelli have discovered that H2O is an ancient source and was created through a four-step process.
The first step, known as the cold phase, began with a molecular cloud. This cloud consisted of hydrogen, water’s main component, helium, oxygen, and carbon. It soon came into contact with a dust grain that froze and adhered to its surface. This led to hydrogen molecules jumping from dust grain to dust grain before they landed on oxygen.
Water ice was then formed from this meeting. Gravity eventually stepped in, and matter began to clump in the center. This accumulation of mass in the middle of the cloud resulted in a protostar being born.
Things eventually started to heat up due to gravity, and the gas and dust reached 100 Kelvin (280 degrees Fahrenheit), which triggered the next phase: the protostar phase.
During this step, the ice turned into vapor by way of sublimation. Step two followed immediately with the introduction of protoplanetary disks that carried everything that would eventually become the solar system. As such, the vapor turned back into ice in the coldest depths of the protoplanetary disk.
Now comes the final phase as the universe begins to take shape, specifically our solar system. Planets, stars, and asteroids are beginning to form and find their place in orbit. With that comes the formation of H2O in its current state.
From this, the researchers posit that water is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
You might wonder how much of this original water can now be found on Earth. The study estimates that anywhere between 1% and 50% of our natural source came from 4.5 billion years ago.
The next time you’re pouring yourself a glass of water, or even if you're standing on a beach somewhere, just think about how some of that water could have been there at the dawn of creation.