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No. 56: Mar-Apr 1988

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Oceans From Space

In keeping with the foregoing extraterrestrial flavor, we are happy to report that our oceans may be exogenous; that is, derived from extraterrestrial materials. Once again, comets seem to be the culprits. C.F. Chyba has examined the lunar impact record and derived an estimate of the total mass of objects impacting the moon during the (hypothetical) period of heavy bombardment 3.8 to 4.5 billion years ago. This allowed him to calculate the mass influx for the earth during this period. His conclusion: if only about 10% of the incoming mass consisted of comets (mostly ice), the earth would have acquired all its ocean water.

(Chyba, Christopher F.; "The Cometary Contribution to the Oceans of Primitive Earth," Nature, 330:632, 1987.)

Comment. Frank claims that the earth today is continually bombarded by small icy comets, which down the eons may have kept the ocean basins full. So, we have two possible extraterrestrial sources of oceans -- both of a cometary nature. It was only yesterday that the idea of ice surviving in outer space was ridiculed; no one even dreamed that our oceans could be composed of space ice!

From Science Frontiers #56, MAR-APR 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987