Scientists find carbonated liquid water in an ancient meteorite

(A) Inclusions in calcined grain in the Sutter’s Mill meteorite recognized by X-ray nanotomography. Fluids were not detected in relatively large inclusions because they had already escaped. (B) TEM image of non-inclusion filled with CO2 fluid flow (indicated by arrow). (C) Snow lines H2O, CO2 and CO and parent body formation of Sutter’s Mill. The formation region can be assessed by the presence of the CO2-carrying fluid. Nebula growth rate,?, Corresponds to the time axis for the development of the early solar system. Credit: Dr. Akira Tsuchiyama from Ritsumeikan University

Water abounds in the solar system. Even beyond Earth, scientists have detected ice on the moon, in Saturn’s rings and in comets, liquid water on Mars and below the moon’s surface Saturn’s Enceladus, and traces of water vapor in Venus’ burning atmosphere. Studies have shown that water played an important role in the early development and formation of the solar system. To learn more about this role, planetary scientists have sought evidence of liquid water in extraterrestrial materials such as meteorites, most of which are derived from asteroids that formed in the early history of the solar system.

Scientists have even found water as hydroxyls and molecules in meteorites in the context of hydric minerals that are basically solid with some ionic or molecular water inserted into them. Dr. Akira Tsuchiyama, Visiting Research Professor at Ritsumeikan University, says, “Scientists further expect liquid water to remain as flowing inclusions in minerals that have fallen into a watercourse” (or, to put it simply, composed of water droplets that contained various other things dissolved within them). Scientists have found such liquid water enclosures within salt crystals located in a class of meteorites known as ordinary chondrites, which represent the vast majority of all meteorites found on Earth although the salt actually originated from other, more primitive parent objects.

Professor Tsuchiyama and his colleagues wanted to know if liquid aqueous inclusions are present in the form of calcium carbonate known as calcite within a class of meteorites known as “carbon chondrites,” which are derived from asteroids that formed very early in the sun’s history. system. They therefore examined samples from the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, a carbonaceous chondrite originating from an asteroid formed 4.6 billion years ago. The results of their research, led by prof. Tsuchiyama, appears in an article recently published in the prestigious newspaper Scientific Advances.

The researchers used advanced microscopic techniques to examine the meteorite fragments of Sutter’s Mill, and they found a calcified crystal containing a nanoscale aqueous fluid inclusion that contains at least 15% carbon dioxide. This finding confirms that calcined crystals in ancient carbon chondrites may indeed contain not only liquid water, but also carbon dioxide.

The presence of liquid water inclusions within the Sutter’s Mill meteorite has interesting implications for the origins of the meteorite’s parent asteroid and the early history of the solar system. The inclusions probably occurred due to the parent asteroid forming with pieces of frozen water and carbon dioxide inside it. This would require the asteroid to form in part of the solar system cold enough for water and carbon dioxide to freeze, and these conditions would place the formation far outside Earth’s orbit, probably beyond even Jupiter’s orbit. The asteroid then had to be transported to the inner regions of the solar system, where fragments could later collide with the planet Earth. This assumption is consistent with recent theoretical studies of the evolution of the solar system, which suggest that asteroids rich in small volatile molecules such as water and carbon dioxide formed beyond Jupiter’s orbit before being transported to areas closer to the sun. The most likely cause of the asteroid’s transport into the inner solar system would be the gravitational effects of the planet Jupiter and its migration.

In conclusion, the discovery of aquatic inclusions within a carbon chondrite meteorite from the early history of the solar system is an important achievement for planetary science. Prof. Tsuchiyama proudly notes, “This achievement shows that our team could detect a tiny fluid trapped in a mineral 4.6 billion years ago.”

By acquiring chemical snapshots of the contents of an ancient meteorite, the work of his team can provide important insights into processes operating in the early history of the solar system.

Why is there water on Earth?

Additional information:
“Discovery of primitive CO2-carriing fluid in water-altered carbon chondrite ” Scientific Advances (2021). …. .1126 / sciadv.abg9707

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Quote: Scientists find carbonated liquid water in an ancient meteorite (2021, April 21) taken April 22, 2021 from

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