Scientists Discover ‘Alien Water’ Inside Fallen Meteorite

by Caitlin Berard

Last February, a strange object appeared in a driveway in the UK. At first, the family thought someone had thrown a piece of charcoal into their yard, which they found a little strange. As it turned out, however, the true identity of the mystery rock was even stranger.

It wasn’t a piece of charcoal or even a rock, it was actually a meteorite that had crash-landed in their driveway. Within 12 hours of its discovery, it was in the hands of researchers. During their initial tests, scientists made an unexpected find – the meteorite was made up of 12 percent water!

Most meteorites become contaminated by the Earth’s landscape and atmosphere, tainting any research done on the space material. Because this meteorite, dubbed the Winchcombe meteorite, was found so quickly, however, scientists are confident that the water isn’t from Earth. This makes the Winchcombe meteorite the first ever to contain alien water.

“What’s really exciting for us is that Winchcombe meteorite was collected about 12 hours after landing,” Natural History Museum meteorite researcher Ashley King explained at a recent speaking appearance (via The Telegraph). “So the water that’s in the rock hasn’t been contaminated with the water that we have in our atmosphere.

“So it’s basically really fresh,” he continued. “We can be really confident when we measure the water that it is extra-terrestrial water.”

Could Earth’s Water Be a Product of Meteorites?

To make the Winchcombe meteorite even more interesting, the water inside very closely resembles the water of Earth. “The composition of that water is very similar to the composition of the water in the earth’s oceans,” King said.

This discovery brings planetary scientists one step closer to answering one of the biggest questions in the field: where did the Earth’s water come from? Scientists hypothesize that the water on Earth came from either comets or asteroids.

While comets contain mostly ice and dust, asteroids are made up of rock. With that in mind, the comet explanation might seem more likely. The Winchcombe meteorite, however, supports the asteroid theory.

“The composition of water on comets, at least a few that we visited, doesn’t match the earth’s oceans,” King explained. “But the composition of the water in the Winchcombe meteorite is a much better match. So that would imply that carbonaceous asteroids were probably the main source of water for earth.”

“It’s a really good piece of evidence that asteroids and bodies like Winchcombe were delivering really important contributions to the earth’s oceans,” the meteorite researcher continued, adding that the meteorite contains other crucial ingredients for life within it.

“It’s also got two percent carbon,” he said. “And a significant fraction of that is organic materials, like amino acids. If you want to start making DNA and stuff, you need amino acids. So all of these starting materials are locked up in the Winchcombe meteorite.”