Asteroids usually don’t have water — This one does.

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Water is the essential building block of life, and someone no human can live without. And given our growing fascination with life outside planet Earth, it’s always time to sound the alarm when we find it somewhere else. According to Science News, that’s what happened to cosmochemists from Arizona State University in Tempe. When looking at asteroids, namely Itokawa, they found evidence of water:

“Itokawa is what’s known as stony asteroid or an S-type asteroid, which means that it was born closer to the sun than to Jupiter. Scientists think that Itokawa formed from the rubble of a catastrophic impact that broke up a larger asteroid.”

Discoveries like water on Itokawa run parallel to other big celestial ones. Just recently, the New York Times ran a story about scientists discovering methane on Mars, with little idea of what is producing it.

Finding water on Itokawa is a big deal because the scientists didn’t expect it at all. However, one co-author of the study, Maitrayee Bose, still decided to look for it. What they found was that though it contained a lot less water than Earth, the number wasn’t zero.

“In two Itokawa grains, the team found between roughly 680 and 970 parts per million of water. Earth’s crust, by comparison, contains 15,000 to 20,000 ppm of water.”

The implications of the Itokawa discovery are big, but the obvious question is where the water came from. Science News claims that a going theory among scientists on the study, given the fact that the water found on Itokawa is the correct kind for Earth’s oceans, is that asteroids of this type could have delivered that water.

Nothing more can be known without further testing. The only pause is a certainty that the samples did not get their water from Earth’s atmosphere. Aside from that, it’s full steams ahead at NASA, which has two ongoing missions that will retrieve two C-type asteroids over the next five years.

And we can expect to learn a lot more when they do.

Feature image provided via JPL – NASA

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