It's the "missing the link" we've been looking for.
Water, as we're sure it's not terribly surprising to hear, is old. But according to a fascinating new paper published in the journal Nature, it might be just a little bit older than we previously thought.
"We can now trace the origins of water in our Solar System to before the formation of the Sun," John Tobin, the study's lead author and an astronomer at the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said in a press release.
That's right. According to this research, water is likely older than our Sun — and the secret, they say, was discovered in another star.
The astonishing conclusion suggests that the presence of water is far more widespread in the universe and that even the water in our planet's oceans may have come from much further away than initially thought.
The star in question, V883 Orionis, is a relatively young — and still growing — cosmic body that's roughly 1,300 lightyears away from the Earth.
As the researchers explain in their study, V883 Orionis is surrounded by a disk-like cloud of cosmic matter. During the birth of a star, a wide-ranging scope of interstellar material gets sucked into the birthing star's vortex. The disk surrounding V883 Orionisis is comprised of that sucked-up material, and once the star stops growing, the matter from the disk will one day turn into surrounding bodies like comets, asteroids, and ultimately, planets.
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile, the scientists were able to study the disc's chemical makeup and discovered a lot of water, more than 1,200 times the amount found in all of the Earth's oceans combined.
By analyzing the isotopes of hydrogen atoms present in the water, they were able to conclude that it likely formed before our Sun was even born.
In fact, the team estimates that as much as half of the Earth's water may have existed before the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago.
"V883 Orionis is the missing link in this case," said Tobin. "The composition of the water in the disk is very similar to that of comets in our own Solar System."
"This is confirmation of the idea," he added, "that the water in planetary systems formed billions of years ago, before the Sun, in interstellar space, and has been inherited by both comets and Earth, relatively unchanged."
READ MORE: Astronomers Traced The Origins of Water to a Time Before The Sun [Science Alert]
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