A new study, supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, suggests that meteorites and their parent asteroids are the most-likely sources of water on Earth. The research led by the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Conel Alexander indicates that these rocks from space were the sources of early Earth’s volatile elements — which include hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon — and possibly organic material. Understanding if and how volatile elements were delivered to the early Earth is important in determining the origins of both water and life on our planet.

The paper, “The Provenances of Asteroids, and Their Contributions to the Volatile Inventories of the Terrestrial Planets” was published in the July 12 edition of Science Express, under lead author Conel Alexander, and is available at: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2012/07/11/science.1223474