A Meteorite That Landed In The UK Has Been Found To Contain Extra-Terrestrial Water

For the first time ever extra-terrestrial water has been discovered in a meteorite that landed in the United Kingdom.

The Winchcombe meteorite crashed down last February
The Winchcombe meteorite crashed down last February

The meteorite crashed into a driveway in the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, last February and experts believe it holds clues as to where the water in the vast oceans on Earth came from.

Dr Ashley King, a researcher in the planetary materials group at the Natural History Museum said that around 12% of the sample was made up of water and was the least contaminated specimen to be collected.

Dr King said: "The composition of that water is very, very similar to the composition of water in the Earth's oceans.

"It's a really good piece of evidence that asteroids and bodies like Winchcombe made a very important contribution to the Earth's oceans."

He added that this was the first time ever that a meteorite containing extra-terrestrial water - albeit locked up in minerals - had landed in the United Kingdom.

He continued: "We always try and match the composition of the water meteorites and other extra-terrestrial materials to the composition of the water on the Earth.

"For most meteorites, the challenge we have is that they are just contaminated, whereas with Winchcombe, we know that it really hasn't been contaminated, so it's good evidence."

Fragments from the Winchcombe meteorite
Fragments from the Winchcombe meteorite

Dr King added: "One of the big questions we have in planetary sciences is where did the water on Earth come from? And one of the obvious places is either through comets that have loads and loads of ice in them, or asteroids.

"There's always a debate - were comets the main source, were asteroids the main source?"

He explained that data from missions to comets suggest they are not a good match for water on earth, adding: "The composition of the water in Winchcombe is a much better match, so that would imply that asteroids - carbonaceous asteroids - were probably the main source of water to the inner solar system, to Earth.

"We've had a hint that some asteroids match back nicely to Earth. "But now we have a meteorite which is really fresh that we know hasn't been modified, and it's confirming that same story."

While giving a speech at De Montfort University, Dr King disclosed that analysis suggests that the meteorite came from an asteroid somewhere near Jupiter.

Experts believe that it was formed around 4.6 billion years and has taken around 300,000 years to reach Earth.

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