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Water found in Earth’s oceans, in meteorites and frozen in lunar craters predates the birth of the solar system, a study published in this week's issue of the journal Science shows. The finding has implications for the search for life on other planets: Scientists have long debated whether the solar system’s water came from ice ionized during the formation of the solar system, or if it predated the solar system and originated in the cold interstellar cloud of gas from which the sun itself was formed.
To address the debate, researchers ran computer models comparing ratios of hydrogen with its heavier isotope, deuterium, which has been enriching the solar system’s water over time. In order to reach the ratios found in meteorite samples, as well as in Earth's ocean water and comets, at least some of the water would have to have been formed before the sun’s birth, the scientists concluded. The process would probably be the same for other planetary systems as well, suggesting that conditions hospitable for life could exist beyond Earth.
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