We live on a planet whose surface is over 70% covered by water. But this article consists of Two hydrogen and oxygen atoms, is also present in the air as vapor, in soil moisture and even in ourselves. Understanding how water gets to Earth is a great unsolved mystery. Fortunately, the latest scientific advances can give us some light.
The James Webb Space Telescope has become a staple of this research. NASA announced For the first time in history, astronomers have confirmed the presence of water vapor around a comet in the main asteroid belt. To better locate ourselves, we can say that the discovery occurred in a vast region of our solar system that lies between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.
Frozen water evaporates
As the space agency explains, James Webb’s discovery is an important reference point for research on the distribution of water in the solar system. god near infrared spectrometer (NIRSpec) from the telescope allowed us to study in detail our hero, the comet 238p / read. We’ve seen them soaring through space with their distinctive shiny tail that distinguishes them from asteroids.
This is precisely one of the most interesting points of the discovery. For decades, researchers have discovered astronomical objects that match all the characteristics to be classified as comets, but there has been skepticism. Was it really the water vapor they saw, or some other type of chemical compound? Let us remember that asteroids, among other differences in composition and physical appearance, do not have tails like comets.
“Using this precise spectral data from Webb we can say yes, it is definitely the water ice that is creating this effect,” explains lead author of the study Michael Kelly. But the thing does not end there. Advanced Telescope Instruments revealed that 238P/Read It lacks carbon dioxidean element that typically makes up 10% of the matter that evaporates as it approaches the sun.
A characteristic of asteroids is that they lose water and carbon dioxide when heated (evaporate). For Kelly, there are two possibilities. On the other hand, the comet required all the carbon dioxide before it could be captured by James Webb’s instruments. On the other hand, they formed in a “particularly hot” region of the solar system where carbon dioxide is not available.
“Through Comet Read Webb’s observations, we can now show that water ice from the early solar system can be preserved in asteroid beltKelly says. However, the investigation continues, and the questions on the table seem to multiply. With James Webb in space, it is now possible to study other main belt comets that are small and faint to a degree that was not possible before.
Images: NASA (1And 2And 3) | The article’s featured image corresponds to concept art of Comet 238P/Read created by NASA
more information: Spectral determination of water emissions from the main belt comet (nature)
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