My good friend Lee Covino recently sent me an article from ‘Science News’
(Vol. 161, no 12) about the source of Earth’s oceanic water
Written by Ben Harder, the article outlined the latest scientific thinking about where
all the water on Earth came from. This is a particular problem for planetary
scientists because the Earth simply should not have the amount of water that
it does. The Earth is relatively close to the Sun, and water, a volatile,
should have been expelled from the early inner solar system before the Earth
As such, the Earth should really be a much drier planet. So where
did all the water that is so crucial to the biosphere of this planet
describes various theories that are currently doing the rounds in
scientific circles. Up until recently the leading theory was the notion that
the oceans were deposited by comets impacting the newly formed Earth (the
(2). This bombardment occurred over a billion
years (and might also explain how life appeared on Earth so early in its
geo-history). But according to Ben Harder’s article, recent data from comets
has overturned this possibility.
The problem is that the isotopic ratios of
terrestrial water and cometary ice are quite different.
The comets analyzed thus far contain relatively large quantities of
deuterium, yet this isotopic form of water is rare on Earth.
composition of known comet ice is representative of solar system comets in
general, then very little of the Earth’s water can be attributed to cometary
impact following the Earth’s formation. Taking this into account, it appears
that only half of the Earth’s oceans could have been deposited by impacting
As Ben Harder puts it:
“Assuming that the compositions of
Halley, Hyakutake, and Hale-Bopp are
representative of all comets, explaining how a hail of the objects could
produce oceans with an earthly deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio is like trying to
make a low-fat dessert from heavy cream.”
Puzzled scientists have tried to patch the flagging ‘late-veneer’ theory up,
topping up the comet contribution with that of water-rich asteroids, but
that doesn’t explain other problems to do with the Earth’s chemical
composition. The Earth is rich in many other volatiles, and these elements
(mostly noble gases) are not noted on meteorites.
Topping up comet water
deposition with that of water-rich asteroids would not explain the relative
abundance of these other volatile chemicals. For example, recent studies by
scientists at the University of Arizona regarding the relative isotopic
ratios of osmium in carbonaceous chondrites sink the late-veneer theory
still further; the upper limit for deposition of volatiles from space after
the Earth’s formation is a meager 15%
These new findings are causing planetary scientists a big headache. The
natural implication is that the Earth formed with its volatiles in place
right from the start. Yet current models of the primordial solar system rule
this out. Various new ideas are being floated, in varying degrees of
complexity, to explain this contradiction. Perhaps the primordial inner
solar system was a cooler place than originally thought? Perhaps the Earth
was formed from a multiplicity of planetary ‘embryos’, some of which
originated nearer Jupiter than the Earth, thus allowing a build up of
Perhaps the rocks that formed the early Earth trapped
massive quantities of water within them, preventing the volatiles from being
routinely expunged from the inner accretion disc?
The solution is staring all of these planetary scientists in the face. It is
so obvious that its absence within Ben Harder’s otherwise excellent article
speaks volumes in itself. The Earth has a rich mixture of volatiles,
including water, because our planet originally formed much further away from
But how much further? Clues can be gleaned from the ‘embryo’ theory of the
Frenchman Allessandro Morbidello
He proposes that the Earth formed from
the coalescence of Moon-sized embryos derived from various chaotic orbits in
the primordial solar system. The ‘volatile carriers’ would have formed at
about 4 Astronomical Units; four times further away from the Sun than the
Earth, but still within the orbit of giant Jupiter. He notes, however, that
the water-bearing carrier from 4 AU would have been geo-chemically unique in
the solar system.
Rather like the Earth itself, then?
The data about water isotope composition in the inner solar system strongly
suggests that the Earth formed about 4 astronomical units away from the Sun.
This, of course, does not ‘fit’ the standard model for the evolution of the
solar system. Yet the evidence points in this direction, so scientists
should be reviewing the standard model.
If the Earth was once four times further away from the Sun than it is now,
then we must explain how it managed to find itself in its current close
proximity to the Sun.
Somehow, it was shunted into the inner solar system
from an orbit originally much closer to that of Jupiter.
A model for this action already exists in the form of
Zecharia Sitchin’s ‘12th Planet’ hypothesis
Upon translating and interpreting ancient Sumerian cuneiform texts, this scholar proposed that the earliest
Mesopotamian myths were describing the solar system to a high degree of
accuracy, but with a few additional features.
Interpreting the myths in an
astronomical context suggested to Sitchin that an undiscovered planet exists
among the comets, one that was not an original member of the solar system,
but an interloper wandering in inter-stellar space that blundered into the
There it encountered a watery world at about 4 Astronomical Units, and a
great ‘celestial battle’ took place between these planetary ‘gods’. The
result was the shunting of this Water World, ‘Tiamat’, into the inner solar
system, where it became the Earth. The intruder, ‘Nibiru’, spun off into an
eccentric orbit beyond the known planets, where it remains to be
re-discovered to this day.
This is controversial material, of course. Not the kind of speculative
reasoning that readily appeals to the rational mindset of our academic
brethren. But the Water Conundrum we have just considered is remarkably
consistent with this hypothesis.
Not wishing to rely too heavily upon that
old die-hard ‘Occam’s Razor’, we seem to have a simple solution to a
The Origin of Earth
However, the isotopic evidence about the cometary ice would also call one of Sitchin’s own claims into question. He proposes that debris from the impact
of the primordial Earth and
Nibiru, and/or one or two of its moons, was
scattered into the solar system forming the asteroid belt, and the comets.
Perhaps the formation of the asteroids may have occurred in this way, but
not the comet. The ‘late-veneer’ theory itself is in trouble because the
Earth’s oceans could not have been wholly derived from comets. So conversely
the solar system’s comets could not have been formed from the oceans of the
primordial Earth. If they had then the comet ice isotope ratio would be
consistent with that of Earth.
Current theories of the formation of the Moon are centered upon a massive
collision between the early Earth and a Mars-sized body, scattering debris
into orbit around the Earth, which eventually coalesced to form Luna
The lack of a significant iron core within the Moon suggests that this
impact took place after the Earth’s own iron core had already gravitated to
the centre of our planet
(7). It’s conceivable that the remainder of the
early Earth’s scattered debris formed the asteroid belt, given Sitchin’s
proposal, and this possibility is readily testable by further scientific
study of the composition of asteroids within the belt between Mars and
Jupiter. This might have occurred when the Moon formed, or as a result of
later impacts upon the recovering Earth.
If correct, then the primordial Earth must have been a very significant
planet indeed, such that major impacts upon it created both the asteroid
belt and the Moon (but clearly not the comets). Such a massive terrestrial
planet could have readily held onto a vast amount of volatiles at the
original distance of 4 astronomical units. It also would not be so
incongruous that the larger primordial Earth would have hosted such a
massive satellite as our Moon, a point noted by Sitchin when describing the
relationship between the Sumerian Tiamat and ‘Kingu’.
If the Moon came into being following a collision between the early
and a Mars-sized body, then how would that tally with the ‘celestial battle’
described in the Babylonian ‘Enuma Elish’? The picture is complicated by the
scientific discovery of the ‘late, great bombardment’ upon the Earth/Moon
system 3.9 billion years ago
(8). Was this the Celestial Battle described by
the ancient Mesopotamians?
Perhaps the very early
Earth (Tiamat) was cracked originally open by a
Mars-sized body, forming the Moon (Kingu).
Tiamat remained a giant watery
world with a new, substantial Moon.
And so they might have remained had the
solar system not been disturbed by an interloper.
Nibiru, a wandering giant
planet or small brown dwarf
(9,10), entered the planetary zone, bringing
with it a ready made contingent of comets and moons. This latter action may
have been the ‘late, great bombardment’ that occurred 3.9 billion years ago,
when thousands of killer impactors bombarded our planet.
Nibiru’s immense gravity, momentum and non-orbiting vector perturbed Tiamat
and caused it to fall towards the Sun, attaining an irregular new orbit.
Over billions of years, the resultant Earth was shepherded by the
Jupiter into a more stable orbit, becoming the rather odd world we now live
on, with its over-sized Moon and excessive water content.
became captured by the Sun, but remains loosely bound and possibly erratic
still, a condition that prevents the known planets from harmonizing their
Earth’s Special Character
One final point to note. If the Earth should not be nearly as wet as it is,
being so close to the Sun, then it is perfectly possible that the
actually a rather special place. Without the action of a passing intruder
planet of vast proportions (and I consider Nibiru to be no less than a
sub-brown dwarf), the Earth would be a much colder place than it is now.
More like ‘Snowball Earth’.
Life relies upon liquid water…would the current
bio-diversity on this planet have arisen if Earth was still at 4 AU? One
If a newly forming planet is close to a star, like Earth is to the
thus warmed by it sufficiently to maintain liquid water later in its
history, then these exact same conditions should preclude the inclusion of
water on that world in the first place. The presence of abundant liquid
water on the cooled planet becomes a paradox, because heat and water do not
appear to mix when terrestrial planets form. So this paradoxical situation
we currently find on Earth is solved either by considering the possibility
that the Earth has moved significantly closer to the Sun since its
formation, or by rethinking how planets form.
Whatever caused our world to have so much water so close to the
Sun, it may
be unusual, possibly even unique. The Earth’s abundance of liquid water may
be very rare if the action of an intruder planet is required to explain its
shunting into a closer inner orbit. (Saying that, some of the extra-solar
planets found so far have odd orbits; particularly gas giants that whizz
around the parent stars at very close proximity
Why was the
constituent gas not blown away by the star before the planet formed? Does
this imply that planetary orbits can change radically, possibly as a result
of outside interference? More planets, please, Dr Marcy!)
Life around Cool Stars
A final thought. We always assume that our average boring old Sun is the
blue-print for other star systems that might harbor the conditions for
life. Perhaps this assumption is correct, and the search for
Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence should remain targeted at similar stars to
our own Sun. But if Earth’s acquisition of abundant water is truly an
anomaly given the local heat generated by our Sun upon its formation, then
perhaps we should be looking for life on star systems whose primordial fires
aren’t so hot.
After all, the spectrum of stellar characteristics does not
begin with our own Sun.
Red, or dare I say, even brown dwarfs would have formed without the same
water-purging enthusiasm as our own yellow star. I wonder if that means that
we should direct our attention to the less bright members of the celestial
family; even those who remain hidden entirely.
These relatively cool stars
might have allowed watery worlds to form more readily around them, and
bombard them with less harmful radiation to boot. SETI may have been
searching in the wrong place all this time.
Water Worlds-Feb 2004
The concept of 'migration' of planets has becoming increasingly acceptable
of late. It was not so long ago that Tom van Flandern heavily
criticized Zecharia Sitchin's '12th Planet Theory' on the basis that
Earth could not
have migrated into the inner solar system from the asteroid belt. Van Flandern argued that Earth's orbit should still be highly elliptical if that
was the case, and the orbit should still cross through the asteroid belt.
These arguments were sufficient to swing Alan Alford away from the idea of
the existence of a substantial Planet X body
But science has moved on in recent years, and is generally more open to new
possibilities about Planet X
(13). This is partly because of discoveries
about our own outer solar system, but also because of the data that has
accumulated about extra-solar planets. Many of these 'exoplanets' have
anomalous orbits. Some of them are orbiting their stars at very small
distances, and are known as 'Hot Jupiters'.
These bizarre giant planets are
too close to their stars to have formed where they currently lie (according
to existing theoretical models of planet formation, anyway), so the concept
of 'migration' is increasingly mooted to help planetary scientists sleep at
night. If such a model can be widely applied elsewhere, then surely it could
have happened in our solar system too? Possibly even to the Earth?
The science writer Andrew Pike recently described a possible new class of
planets that sound remarkably similar to Tiamat, as described by
This class of planets, called the 'Water Worlds', are still theoretical, but
this looks like a very exciting development for those interested in Tiamat's
transformation into the Earth:
“Alain Leger of the
Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, France, has suggested
a new class of exoplanet called a ‘Water World’. Such worlds would be
completely covered in water with no land masses. They would have twice the
diameter and around six times the mass of earth with orbital distances from
their host star about the same as the Earth (1 AU).
They would have a
metallic (probably iron) core about 4000 km radius, surrounded by a rocky
mantle 3500kn thick, and be overlaid by a layer of ice 5000km thick covered
by the liquid ocean 100km deep.
“Finally, the planet would have a gas atmosphere to retain its liquid
surface preventing evaporation into space. Water Worlds would start life in
a similar way to Uranus and Neptune in our solar system. However, in these
exosystems they might then migrate to the warmer inner regions heating up as
“Such migration is likely to be commonplace in exoplanetary systems. It
explains a lot of features observed there, in particular how the Hot Jupiters formed. These Water Worlds are still in the realms of speculation
but there are a lot of reasons to believe they might exist and their
detection might be closer than we think.
Should one of these Water Worlds
pass in front of a Sun-like star it would cause a dimming in the star’s
light of one in a thousand parts which is well within the scope of planned
detection projects like the Eddington and Kepler missions [designed to widen
the search for extra-solar planets].”
There is so much that we don't understand about the formation of planetary
This can be only one of a myriad of possibilities, but its early
introduction to scientific speculation would indicate its potential. If such Water Worlds are found to exist then they would provide a huge lift for
Sitchin's theories. Because one of them may have formed between Mars and
Jupiter and, through interaction with Nibiru, migrated into towards the Sun
3.9 billion years ago, thereby losing substantial quantities of that water
into the solar system.
The result, as they say, is history. Earth's History!
Over the years I have described how an ecosystem might have arisen on a moon
orbiting a small brown dwarf, whose light emission is minimal. It can be
easily argued that the conditions on that moon would be warm enough for
liquid water, but some have offered a counter-argument that there still
would be insufficient light for photosynthesis to take place in the outer
Such light as there is would have to come from Nibiru, an old
and small sub-brown dwarf: a class of failed stars about which we have
little knowledge. Astronomers argue about whether such bodies can even emit
light, but there does seem to be a good possibility that they do, through
chemical reactions in the substantial outer layers of atmosphere. This would
result in 'flaring' of light rather than constant brightness.
This is rather like arguing for light-emitting fish in the Deep Sea oceans.
Before their discovery no one would have expected 'Angler Fish' at the
bottom of our oceans. Is Nibiru the planetary equivalent of a neon red
Angler Fish? Is its moon system lit by this little oasis of red light in the
deep abyss of the outer solar system? I suggest that it is.
So would this be sufficient for photosynthesis to take place out there? We
can look to events on our own planet to answer that question, particularly
under the Antarctic ice.
The scientist Chris McKay has studied eco-systems
that depend upon the dimmest of light emerging through the ice to trigger
"Only about 2 percent of the
Sun's light gets through the ice and reaches
the cyanobacteria, but that's plenty bright enough to support
photosynthesis. To McKay, in fact, the ability of some photosynthetic
organisms to survive in dim light carries an important lesson for exobiology.
"There are plants that photosynthesize at light levels equivalent to living
at a hundred astronomical units" he says...[which] would extend more than
twice as far as the Sun's most distant planet, Pluto. Therefore,
believes, there is no reason to think that any of our Sun's planets, or
similarly placed bodies around Sun-like stars, are too dimly lit to support
When you add in the warming and local lighting effect of the
dark star Nibiru, then conditions on its moons would be more
favorable still for the emergence of complex ecosystems in the outer solar
1) B. Harder “Water for the Rock: Did Earth's Oceans come from the Heavens?”
Science News 23 March 2002; Vol. 161, No. 12 Thanks to Lee Covino
2) A. Delsemme “An Argument for the cometary origin of the biosphere”
American Scientist 89 (Sept-Oct) 2001; pp432-442 [cited in (1)]
3) M. Drake & K. Righter “Determining the composition of the Earth” Nature
416 (7th March) 2002; pp39-44 [cited in (1)]
4) A. Morbidelli et al “Source regions and timescales for the delivery of
water to the Earth” Meteoritics and Planetary Science 35 2000; pp1309-1320
[cited in (1)]
5) Z. Sitchin “The Twelfth Planet” Avon 1976
6) L. David "Long-Destroyed Fifth Planet May Have Caused Lunar Cataclysm,
18th March 2002
7) J. d’Arc “Space Travellers and the Genesis of the Human Form” p29 The
Book Tree 2000
8) I. Semeniuk "Neptune Attacks!" pp26-9 New Scientist 7th April 2001
9) A. Lloyd “Winged Disc: The Dark Star Theory” 2001
10) A. Lloyd “Synopsis of The Dark Star Theory” , pp50-5, UFO Magazine
11) G. Marcy & P. Butler "Hunting Planets Beyond" pp43-7 Astronomy March
12) A. Alford "The Phoenix Solution" pp171-4, Hodder & Stoughton 1998
13) A. Lloyd "Planet X: Past and Present", pp32-7, UFO Magazine January 2004
14) A. Pike “Exoplanets: What’s New?” , p72-3, UFO Magazine, February 2004
15) D. Koerner & S. LeVay "Here be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for
Extraterrestrial life" p43, Oxford University Press 2000