back to article That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN

Scientists believe that a "significant fraction" of water molecules found on this planet are older than Earth, the solar system and even the Sun. According to new research led by astro boffin Ilse Cleeves at the University of Michigan, a "significant fraction" of the big drink was created more than 4.5 billion years ago. The …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Boffin

    Since our solar system is only 4.5 billion years old....

    And the universe is about14-15 billion years old.... And I have no idea how old he Milky Way is, but probably a lot older than the solar system....

    I'd say the water came from the remains of previous long-dead stars from billions of years ago, plus some hydrogen that had also been floating through space for billions of year.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "making it about one million years older than the solar system"

      One *million* years? That's a cosmic microsecond, a mere rounding error.

      And simulating one million years of chemical soup in a computer program is probably about as accurate as predicting the weather in one hundred years' time. Oh wait...

      1. Ben Bonsall

        Re: "making it about one million years older than the solar system"

        Here is the long term weather forecast for the next million years: Changeable, with a high probability of ice ages.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "making it about one million years older than the solar system"

        We await the appearance of your paper contradicting their results.

        This is what I love about the Reg - the readers are so much smarter than everyone else in the world.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, not exactly fresh then.

    Another good reason to avoid drinking it.

    1. MrT

      It can be purified...

      ...by brewing. For best effect, that should be carried out in Masham... ;-)

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Worse still; it has all been drunk and whizzed out by at least one dinosaur.

      1. Long John Brass Silver badge

        Well that explains

        Budweiser

    3. Frosted Flake

      He's right, you know.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least everyone should also have a homoeopathic immunity to any alien borne illnesses which may arrive here one day.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    opens up the idea that water may be found elsewhere in the universe

    Yes. How has that been in doubt, ever?

    Something must happen to the solar masses of hydrogen and oxygen blasted into space by supernovas. What could that be?

    1. tony2heads
      Boffin

      Water water everywhere

      We have observed the spectral line of water vapour (at 22GHz) in star forming regions since 1969. It is hardly new.

      There is a lot of water out there - it is hardly surprising if some turned up late.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Panic!

    We are literally awash with an alien substance. Tell the Daily Mail.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Panic!

      Only tell them it's hydrogen dioxide. That will really merit a blasting headline.

      1. Colin Brett
        Boffin

        Re: Panic!

        "Only tell them it's hydrogen dioxide. That will really merit a blasting headline."

        I thought it was dihydrogen oxide or oxygen dihydride. Can HO2 (can't do subscripts) even be made - no matter how much you blast the atoms in a collider?

        Colin

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Panic!

          Rats.... senior moment. You're correct.

        2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Re: Panic!

          I'd have thought Dihydrogen Monoxide would sound even scarier.

          1. cortland
            Pint

            Re: Panic!

            http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/search?q=dihydrogen&state=closed

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dihydrogen_monoxide_hoax#cite_note-29

            My own favorite: There may still be a few credulous engineers wondering what a dithyrambic synthesizer is. What fun these mortals be!

            Beer will do. Bring on the maenads.

        3. oolor
          Mushroom

          Re: Panic!

          @ Colin Brett:

          Collider, oh please! Each of your cells is around 0.3%:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroperoxyl

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Panic!

            "@ Colin Brett:

            Collider, oh please! Each of your cells is around 0.3%:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroperoxyl"

            We should be banning that shit as well..

            "Hydroperoxyl is responsible for the destruction of ozone in the stratosphere"

        4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Panic!

          "Can HO2 (can't do subscripts) even be made - no matter how much you blast the atoms in a collider?"

          Out in interstellar space, the rules are different. We can see spectral lines from species that are energetically unstable but which continue to exist because they can't fall apart without a third party to carry off some of the excess momentum.

          Whether HO₂ falls in that category I couldn't say. Sorry, but I'm really only posting this to point out that Unicode contains a full set of superscript and subscript characters. The bit about interstellar space was just a hook. (True, though.)

          Edit: Looks like I should have read some of the other replies before replying. At the bottom of the wikipedia page mentioned just above is a link to "List of interstellar and circumstellar molecules" which includes hydroperoxyl.

      2. Chas
        Alert

        Re: Panic!

        Even better, tell 'em it's oxidane (the posh systematic name for Adam's Ale). That'll really confuse the buggers!

        =:~)

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: Panic! - you're bunch of arm chair chemists

          It's protium hydroxide, you amateurs!!

          The stuff that kills you if you try to inhale it or drink too much of it!

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Panic! - you're bunch of arm chair chemists

            Downvotes? Can it be we actually have two DM readers here?

      3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Mark 85 Re: Panic!

        ".....tell them it's hydrogen dioxide....." Reminds me of the time Penn & Teller showed how scientifically clueless the average 'environmental campaigner' was by getting them to sign up for a ban of 'dihydrogen-monoxide' (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yi3erdgVVTw).

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Panic!

      We are literally awash with an alien substance. Tell the Daily Mail.

      Do the Mail's readers wash?

      (Awaiting downvotes from the three DM readers here...)

  5. Frosted Flake

    Stunningly obvious 'discovery'

    Ever notice Enceladus? Or Europa? Or a comet? Did you think water grows on trees? Try finding one on Enceladus.

    Stars forge atoms into larger atoms, up to iron. Then, exploding stars forge even heavier elements while hurling them into the great wide open. Later, this material collects itself into new solar systems. It happens H is the most common atom and O is one of the most reactive common atoms. They cannot avoid getting to know one another. Scientists are supposed to know this stuff. So are schoolchildren.

    Water might be the most common molecule in the universe.Of course Earths' water predates the Sun. We are certainly not going to be able to get any out of the Sun. Unless, I suppose, you go at night.

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

      Re: Stunningly obvious 'discovery' - H2 verses H2O

      Think that molecular hydrogen is the most likely commonest molecule in the universe, bloody massive clouds of it floating around out there, more than has been incorporated in the stars or planets we can see.

      Every proton, neutron and most electrons in the solar system are damned near as old as time itself!

      Uppies anyway.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Stunningly obvious 'discovery' - H2 verses H2O

        Water? Atoms?

        It's the protons that have been around for a long time, and will do for much longer. ;)

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Stunningly obvious 'discovery' - H2 verses H2O

          Downvoting my downvote comment too. Clearly I'm rattling some cages.

          Good ... any advance on 3? :)

  6. Phaeton

    Define 'local'

    It is not clear to me about whether or not the hydrogen and oxygen used to make the water was from outlying molecules of the planetary forming disc or if they drifted in from unrelated stellar space.

    If local then the water of life would still vary from system to system. If not local the clouds should be visible in interstellar space rather than just around forming systems.

    The article seems deliberately vague on this point.

    1. Brian Souder 1

      Re: Define 'local'

      "It is not clear to me about whether or not the hydrogen and oxygen used to make the water was from outlying molecules of the planetary forming disc or if they drifted in from unrelated stellar space.

      If local then the water of life would still vary from system to system. If not local the clouds should be visible in interstellar space rather than just around forming systems"."

      I am assuming you mean just Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules - otherwise you would think Oort type objects. I think it is reasonable to think that material is merging from outside our system, but I would wonder if it just collects in the outer reaches until it falls inward with one of the objects. I was looking at this chart for perspective:

      http://www.redorbit.com/media/uploads/2004/10/4_dc08febfcab194aed2ada6677c525dc62.jpg

      At the same time though, in the early formation of the sun and the solar system we were still in the cloud where other stars were born. You could look at it as if gas was arriving from outside the system, or we were all part of the same system. You could surmise that any gases outside our system falling in are really from the same original system. (I know The Reg had this article but I was having trouble finding it - fell free to sub the link)

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/09/solar-system-origins-dust-cloud_n_5662441.html

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Define 'local'

      If you accept current Cosmology and stellar theory, there is some sense in which the origin of the water is irrelevant. After the BB you have hydrogen which gets converted into other chemicals in Type II starts. The Type II stars die and seed the surrounding area with the chemicals they generated. Since the fusion reactions depend on physics for their changeover points, the percentages of other elements produced by a given Type II star will be constant for all practical purposes. Which means you'll wind up with roughly the same percentages of hydrogen and oxygen in the regions forming Type I stars regardless.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And it is He (God) who created the heavens and the earth in six days - and His Throne had been upon water - that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed. But if you say, "Indeed, you are resurrected after death," those who disbelieve will surely say, "This is not but obvious magic."

    [Quran 11:7]

    This verse from the Quran, Surah Hud (Surah number 11), verse number is 7, tells us that god had created water before heavens and earth, so you came with nothing new.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      And your point? Beside maybe trying to convince some that your religion is the One True Religion based on one quote? Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Actually more than one religion notes this, Genesis has the spirit of God moving over the waters of the earth, pre-creation; the Enuma Elish (Babylonians) has everything coming from a primordial salt water entity; I'm sure there are others.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Actually more than one religion notes this, Genesis has the spirit of God moving over the waters of the earth, pre-creation; the Enuma Elish (Babylonians) has everything coming from a primordial salt water entity

          More than one religion or variations of the same religion?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ""Indeed, you are resurrected after death," those who disbelieve will surely say, "This is not but obvious magic.""

      And yeay, it was but a universal fact that books of religous mumbo jumbo, unto the last one, were ever presented in the style of King James, for ever and ever, that the gullible shall believe the mystic nonsense and be in awe.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "And it is He (God) "

      God is Helium? Someone call John Carter!

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        H to He Who Am the Only One.

    4. the-it-slayer

      God is merely a molecule of the imagination.

      Water is real. Go figure.

    5. smartypants

      The six days abrahamic creation thing...

      ...Always cracks me up.

      It's the sort of tale you'd invent if you were a bloke who wanted to frighten the people around you into doing whatever you tell them, and the people around you were largely peasants who couldn't read or write and lacked the education that today shows up these stories for the nonsense they always were.

      What is even funnier is that you can still get a university 'degree' in this mumbo jumbo.

      1. Jes.e

        Re: The six days abrahamic creation thing...

        About that six day creation thing..

        Which version?

        There are two creation myths in genesis and they are about two pages* apart..

        ..annnnnnd they disagree with each other ever so slightly.

        Does god suffer from multiple personality disorder?

        P.S- The Hindu creation myth shows the unformed universe as being a vast ocean which you can see visualized in the opening title sequence from the fascinating movie "Sita Sings the Blues";

        http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1QkYOqI3jSM

        ---

        *Your metric may vary if you are reading from a scroll.

    6. Mage Silver badge

      Koran

      Mohammed copied a lot of it from the Jewish and Christian books as he wanted them to join his new religion. He was quite puzzled that only taxes and/or swords convinced them to convert. The polytheistic people at the time though often converted.

      He also only visited Jerusalem in a dream. It's not a reliable source for comment about science. For metaphysical or philosophical explanations the original texts may be clearer.

  8. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Oxygen not new

    Our sun has not created oxygen atoms from hydrogen, so they must have been part of the cloud from which the sun was born. Similarly with nitrogen and carbon.

    Hydrogen is overwhelmingly more abundant than the C N O atoms, so they will exist as hydrides: methane, ammonia, and water. Rather like the atmosphere of Jupiter, then. Yes, these hydrides will have existed before the solar system was born, though they may have been unformed and reformed by solar processes.

    The article seems to be saying the deuterium abundances are a signal. But deuterium does not disappear until temperatures are high enough for nuclear reactions. So it is consumed within the sun, but not in the planetary zone. The measurements the article reports seem to buttress standard theory rather than saying anything new.

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

      Re: Oxygen not new - some is, but not a lot yet!

      There is oxygen being produced in the various CNO (carbon nitrogen oxygen) reaction cycles in the sun but most gets consumed soon after formation (it is a cycle).

      There is also the triple-alpha process producing carbon which can be hit by another alpha particle to produce stable oxygen 16. Again not a lot as yet but this does not get re-consumed and is an end product but won't be released until Sol's end days.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Oxygen not new - some is, but not a lot yet!

        Oxygen 16? As long as it's not Ice-nine being produced!

        (Very interesting in how there are different types of each atom/element :) )

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Oxygen not new - some is, but not a lot yet!

        The CNO nuclear cycle that you mention only runs in the bigger hotter stars, of which our sun is not one. So in our sun it is the process of two protons forming a deuteron plus an electron. This is a weak reaction and very slow. That is why stars shine for billions of years rather than exploding straightaway.

        The deuterium reacts quickly to eventually form helium-4, which is why there is very little deuterium at any moment, and any excess in the original galactic mix would disappear.

        So the sun does not currently form carbon or any nucleus later in the list of elements. When it becomes a red giant, billions of years hence, it will burn helium to carbon.

  9. JP19

    but, but, but,

    When uncle Ken tells us "if it's yellow...." we must heed his wise words, water is precious.

    It can't possibly have been 100% recycled for the last 4.6 billion years. It must be a lie spread by those wicked water is precious deniers.

  10. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Boffin

    "But we're still in the dark about how it rained down on us"

    Evidently, England[1] already existed as a fully-formed entity[2] in the dust cloud out of which the solar system would form.

    [1] rain and all

    [2] but possibly excluding Scotland

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: "But we're still in the dark about how it rained down on us"

      England and Scotland were separate in palaeozoic times. Then by some geological catastrophe England was encumbered.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: "But we're still in the dark about how it rained down on us"

        I'd be careful with the jokes you make there. You were part of northern France rather more recently than palaeozoic times.

  11. Fihart

    Someone tell Sainsbury's

    ........ "significant fraction of the big drink was created more than 4.5 billion years ago".

    Yet they still put sell-by dates on bottled water.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Someone tell Sainsbury's

      "Yet they still put sell-by dates on bottled water."

      That probably has more to do with the amount of time taken for toxins to leach into the water from the plastic bottle.

  12. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    "opens up the idea that water may be found elsewhere in the universe. And, where there's water, there is life."

    Part a) is a given, assuming the laws of physics applies elsewhere in the universe.

    Part b) only applies if assuming an infinite universe (resulting in infinite possibilities) or if we assume it's easy for life to appear.

    Most people subscribe to a), not everyone subscribes to b) as it's pure assumption until we see evidence.

    1. Tom 13

      @TechnicalBen

      I think part of the problem is that in shortening the original definition of the equation from "liquid water" to just "water" also jumped probabilities several orders of magnitude.

  13. DJV Silver badge

    Just checked the glass of water I'm drinking and...

    ... 23% was sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure.

  14. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    How was it formed?

    In the low temperatures of space, can Hydrogen and Oxygen combine (burn) to make water? Or would all of the water have to have been produced near stars, exploding or otherwise?

    Also, I wonder how much water has been added since our atmosphere came into being---since every flame that ever existed has created some water, as well as other chemical processes...

  15. Lorel

    This so-called "discovery" was written thousands of years ago in the Bible - first verses of Genesis: the earth and water were created first then the sun.

    1. oolor
      Devil

      Actually, it is heavens and the earth, then the let there be light bit, then water. Given that even the authors were wise enough to script the heavens first, we can argue a simpler case with those of alternative interpretations of reality.

      So clearly Genesis is wrong since we are now arguing between

      water > sun > earth,

      or

      sun > earth > water,

      or

      sun > water > earth.

      Discuss.

      1. David L Webb

        From King James Genesis 1 (http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Genesis-Chapter-1/)

        "

        1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

        2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

        3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

        "

        The waters pre-existed the light since God moved upon their face before saying "Let there be light".

        As to heaven and earth. The first line could be seen as a summary of what is to follow since in 2 the earth is without form and void and subsequent lines describe how the land and seas were created.

        And heaven isn't created until

        "

        7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

        8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

        "

        and the stars and sun are created even later

        "

        13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

        14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

        15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

        16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

        "

        So clearly according to Genesis the waters pre-existed the stars. Which doesn't fit in with any scientific explanation since it looks like you need stars to produce oxygen before you can have any water. But then what do you expect from a pre-scientific creation myth where the authors if they had given it any thought would probably have regarded water as a fundamental element.

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          I can't wait till someone busts out with quotes from Tolkien's Silmarillion...

          Ahhh the first Book to finally open my Eyes to what utter shite all religion was, and is!

          The only "difference", was that Tolkien didn't try to hide the fact that it was, in fact all fiction. Even if I wanted to believe it. If only for a short time.

        2. Hollerith 1

          On the other hand

          "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" is one of the most beautiful and poetic lines you can find anywhere. KJV: can't beat it.

          1. Frosted Flake

            Re: On the other hand

            Ya think? Check this out.

            I almost recall gamboling shallows neath orange frilled sun specked froth. A growser suddenly cast shadow, skattering our troop. But he was already eating, so too casually we went again our way.

            If you can do more with less, mention.

            Oh, and feel free to Google, and discover it has never been written before.

        3. Frosted Flake

          So you get your science from the bible, then. How stupid. I'm impressed.

    2. smartypants

      Lorel: Genesis actually very confused on the matter

      Verse 1&2

      "1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

      Verse 9&10:

      "9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good."

      So God first created the earth in step 1, then later (step 4 or 5) he invented dry ground and seas. So that begs the question "what was verse 1 about?"

      I say it begs the question, but we all know about the adults who walk this life with childish, stupid, specially ringfenced beliefs which they not only shy away from cross examining for themselves but seek to impose on as many other people as they can, because that's what happened to them.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Lorel: Genesis actually very confused on the matter

        Genesis isn't confused, just badly punctuated. I think it has been accepted for quite a long time that the opening chapter contains two separate creation accounts, rather badly bolted together.

  16. pollyH

    hmm?

    "And, where there's water, there is life."

    Yes, the presence of water appears to be a necessary condition for life. But it's a giant stretch to say water alone is sufficient for life to exist. It would be far more accurate to state the converse: where there's life, there is water.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bones

    The presence of water is only necessary for life as we know it, Jim.

  18. zen1

    @blind squirrel...

    Come on, does the blind squirrel actually find a nut or does it find an oxygen atom to fuse together with two hydrogen atoms? But I digress and maybe I'm being ignorant about it, but someone actually paid to make this assertion? More to the point, how is this significant?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    planet-forming disk?

    Really? A diskette formed planets? Was it a high density diskette?

    1. SteveK

      Re: planet-forming disk?

      Only the inner ones. Low density diskettes for the outer gas planets.

  20. Yugguy

    You've got it wrong.

    Ale > lager > water.

  21. Hargrove

    The genesis of Genesis

    A bit of intellectual honesty is in order here.

    Condemning those who insist that the Bible is literal and inerrant truth in matters of history and science as brain-dead fundamentalists is fair enough.

    Deriding the work of originators of Genesis (or any other creation myths) who produced the original wording is not.

    These myths are humankind's attempts to express their limited understanding on the universe. They convey important insights into our shared humanity, and our relation to a universe whose origins and being transcended their and our present human understanding. They need to be understood and deserve respect for what they are, even if the way they are abused by authoritarian believers does not.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: The genesis of Genesis

      Deriding the work of originators of Genesis (or any other creation myths) who produced the original wording is not.

      And, yet its still FICTION! A fiction that billions of People have had to pay for throughout the history of Humankind. Or as George Carlin would say....

  22. SteveK

    And yet bottles of the stuff still have a 'best before' date...

  23. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Typical

    What this implies is if the planetary disk didn't make the water, it inherited it

    Damn lazy trust-fund planet. When I were a lad, planets made their own water. Built character.

  24. Frosted Flake

    Obviously.

    Makes you wonder where they thought water came from. The corner grocery, perhaps. Next they are gonna notice where we got the rocks, and be astounded.

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