June 1, 2019 | Henry Richter

Where Did Earth’s Water Come From?


By Henry L. Richter, PhD, PE (Ret)

From time to time, articles appear conjecturing as to where the water on our earth came from. A case in point is a paper by Hanneke Weitering in Space.com entitled: “Water Found in Tiny dust Particles from Asteroid Itokawa.” He states: “Scientists have found traces of water in dust grains from the peanut-shaped asteroid Itokawa, and the discovery could shed light on how Earth got its water.” Another recent article on Space.com, this one by Elizabeth Howell, speculates that comets brought the water. These articles are typical, speculating that Earth’s water came from outside, from small (or large?) bodies impacting the earth.

Earthrise from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, December 2015. Our “blue planet” stands out like a jewel in space.

A Thin Veneer

The Earth does have quite a bit of water, which we know is essential to life. But really only a very small percentage of the Earth is water. As a liquid, it covers a little over half of the surface of the Earth to an average depth of just under four kilometers, out of a total radius of the Earth of 6,370 km. This computes to about .06% of the Earth’s volume being water. One can add all the water in minerals bound in the surface and mantle rocks, perhaps adding another small fraction of a percent. Although only a small percentage of our Earth is water, it is nevertheless a substantial amount.

Naturalism’s Infinite Regress

Water is felt to be fairly common in the universe. Another article in Space.com, titled,“Mysterious ‘Sub-Neptunes’ are Probably Water Worlds” says:

Water worlds that each possesses thousands of times more water than Earth does may be more common than Earth-like rocky planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, a new study finds. Over the past 20 or so years, astronomers have confirmed the existence of thousands of exoplanets, or planets around other stars. Many exoplanets are quite unlike any planets in our solar system. For example, so-called super-Earths have diameters up to twice that of Earth, and ‘sub-Neptune’ worlds are two to four times wider than Earth. (Neptune’s diameter is about four times Earth’s.)

Now, why do scientists need explanations of where the water came from? The answer is that they feel compelled to reach for naturalistic causes for everything. The idea that everything was created essentially “as is,” is a concept they cannot (or will not) imagine or consider. If a multitude of asteroid-type bodies delivered our water by special delivery, another question arises: where did the asteroids get their (small amount) of water at the beginning?

Common Sense Answers to Worthwhile Questions

I do not want to criticize the asking of questions like “where did the water come from?” But in considering possible answers, common sense needs to be applied. In this case, the small amount of water bound into crystals on a space rock is hardly a plausible source of our oceans. It is highly unlikely that liquid water came to us on space rocks, since such rocks spend time in the high vacuum of space. Any liquid water would evaporate or sublime.

Dr Richter managed the instruments for Explorer 1, America’s first satellite

Similarly, common-sense questions need to be supplied for other vital ingredients:

  • Where did our carbon come from?
  • Where did the iron-nickel core of the earth come from?
  • Where did the oxygen and nitrogen of our atmosphere come from?
  • …and so on for other finely-balanced aspects of Earth

Balanced Ingredients and Cycles

The amount of each ingredient is also important. Why is the oxygen content only 20%? Could we live if the atmosphere were oxygen alone, at a pressure of one fifth of an atmosphere? – that is the same partial pressure of oxygen we have now. I suspect that nitrogen, relatively inert in its triple-bonded form, is there to give us more gas volume to flush out our lungs, because oxygen alone would not work for us. We need nitrogen, of course, as an essential element for the proteins in our bodies. The levels of each of the essential ingredients for life is maintained through amazingly balanced cycles: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the oxygen cycle.

We all know that our Earth is a very unique place. Not only do we have water (of the proper kind), but we have all sorts of other elements and compounds that make life possible. Are we just very lucky, or have we been given a specially created habitat in space for our dwelling? There are so very many features of our Earth that have to be just as they are, that the possibility of an accidental collection and combination of all these factors is vanishingly small. Special creation is the only reasonable explanation.

Dr. Henry Richter was born in Long Beach, California, and served a short tour of duty in the U.S. Navy in World War II. From there he received a BS and PhD (Chemistry, Physics, and Electrical Engineering) from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California. Then he went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which became part of NASA. While there he headed up the development of the free worlds first earth satellite, Explorer I. He then oversaw the scientific instrumentation for the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor Programs. From JPL, he went to Electro-Optical Systems becoming a Vice President and Technical Director. Next was a staff position with UCLA as Development Manager of the Mountain Park Research Campus. He then owned an electronics manufacturing business and afterwards became the Communications Engineer for the L.A. County Sheriffs Department. Since 1977, he has been a communications consultant to Public Safety organizations. He is a life member of APCO, the IEEE, and the American Chemical Society. His book America’s Leap into Space details the origins of rocketry and his own role in the launching of the first American satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. Henry Richter is also author of Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers, with co-author David Coppedge (Creation Ministries International, 2016). Creation-Evolution Headlines is honored to have Dr Richter as a contribution writer. See his Author Profile for his previous contributions.

Dr Richter’s book examines many amazing finely-tuned “coincidences” that make our planet habitable

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