While it had long been suspected that water could be preserved within meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites, this is the first time that actual liquid has been found inside one.
The discovery was made in fragments of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite – a 4.6 billion-year-old chunk of space rock that fell to Earth and landed in the United States in 2012.
Senior study author Akira Tsuchiyama from Ritsumeikan University in Japan, and colleagues, used microscopy techniques to identify liquid rich in carbon dioxide inside a tiny calcite crystal.
“This achievement shows that our team could detect a tiny fluid trapped in a mineral 4.6 billion years ago,” said Tsuchiyama.
The discovery is particularly important because, due to the age of the meteorite, it can provide clues as to the conditions that existed during the earliest days of our solar system.
The scientists believe that this particular space rock formed somewhere out beyond Jupiter’s orbit.
The water inside could also point to the original source of the Earth’s oceans.
It may, in fact, be the “grandparent material” of all the water found on Earth