New Study Estimates Amount of Water in Near-Earth Space Rocks

Larry O’Hanlon | AGU Blogosphere
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Scientists have come out with an estimate of how much water might be available in near-Earth asteroids.

new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, suggests there are between 26 and 80 hydrated near-Earth asteroids larger than a kilometer in diameter. Of those, 8 to 26 of the asteroids are easier to get to than the surface of the Moon. The new study also estimates there are between 350 and 1,050 smaller hydrated objects easier to reach than the Moon.

The study’s authors, including EAPS research scientist Francesca DeMeo, estimate there are between 400 and 1200 billion kilograms (440 to 1.3 billion U.S. tons) of water that could be extracted from the minerals in these asteroids. In liquid terms, that’s between 400 billion and 1,200 billion liters (100 billion and 400 billion U.S. gallons) of water. That’s enough to fill between 160,000 and 480,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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Story Image: The near-Earth asteroid Bennu is 500 meters (1,600 feet) wide and contains hydrated minerals, according to scientists working on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. It could one day be mined for water by future explorers. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)