General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What causes water?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (31983points) September 23rd, 2011

When NASA searches for signs of past or present life on Mars, they talk about it in terms of looking for water. Water is very important for the existence of life as we know it.

What causes water to form? Are H2O molecules simply present in the beginning of planets?

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10 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

You made me curious with this question.

I found the following link to an abstract, indicating that most of the water present on earth today was delivered by asteroid and comet impacts:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1945-5100.2000.tb01518.x/abstract

According to the other sources I browsed, water was likely present initially, but boiled off when an object the size of Mars hit the early Earth. The resulting ejections of matter formed the moon.

Most of the water present today was delivered subsequent to that event.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought : Thank you. Now, I’m wondering what the origin of water was on the meteorites that delivered it to Earth?

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

We should have a chemist weigh in, but the bottom line is that Oxygen is a product of fusion in stars that are far along their stellar cycles; usually stars that are about to explode in supernova due to the exhaustion of hydrogen to use in fusion.

The earth and its solar systems should be considered as the “leftovers” of an earlier star or stars; one super big formed almost completely out of hydrogen. Super massive stars make hydrogen into helium and helium into heavier atoms etc… until it takes more energy to form higher elements, I believe after Iron, and they explode under their own gravity, forming all the other elements.

These explosions leave all the elements in a big cloud. These clouds eventually begin to spin under the influence of gravity, into what is called an accretion disk. Oxygen has a charge that makes any nearby hydrogen stick to it, until it has two hydrogen atoms, forming a complete chemical bond, which we know as water. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe.

The heavier material in said cloud will fall to the center (the sun, the inner planets). These clouds eventually collapse over time into planets. Those clouds near to the sun are hot, and water (frozen h20 dust bunnies) caught early in their development boils off to space.

Earth is at a distance from the sun where water dust bunnies can form a liquid if introduced.

After Mars, the early solar system was cool enough that Hydrogen and Oxygen would bind into asteroids, and these elements are light enough to avoid being sucked into the sun during the period when the solar system was a gas cloud.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I was discussing this with a knowledgeable friend, and she put it like this:

Oxygen is a saucy little element with overly active electrons and is always looking to pair up with some random other element. Hydrogen being the most abundant one gets chosen most easily. Thus, there is water in the universe.

RocketGuy's avatar

In America, saucy would translate to slutty?

dabbler's avatar

In a three-way no less !

mattbrowne's avatar

“Water is also found in space, and in fact water ice is the most abundant solid material out there. But how did it get there, and how could water molecules possibly form in the freezing darkness of interstellar space? Japanese researchers trying to answer those questions say they have created water for the first time in conditions similar to interstellar space.”

See this article

http://www.universetoday.com/14075/water-in-interstellar-space/

dabbler's avatar

@mattbrowne great link, thanks ! That is pretty exotic, refined science.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I new great article about this very topic is here.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Another new timely article

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