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Extra-terrestrial water found for first time in meteorite that landed in UK | UK News

Extra-terrestrial water has been discovered for the first time in a meteorite that landed in the UK.

The meteorite crashed into a driveway in the Gloucestershire town of Winchcombe last February and is believed to hold clues about where the water in the Earth’s vast oceans came from.

Some 12% of the sample was made up of water, and offers a lot of insights since it was the least contaminated specimen to be collected, according to Ashley King, a researcher in the planetary materials group at the Natural History Museum.

“The composition of that water is very, very similar to the composition of water in the Earth’s oceans,” he told the British Science Festival.

“It’s a really good piece of evidence that asteroids and bodies like Winchcombe made a very important contribution to the Earth’s oceans.”

Dr King also confirmed that it was the first time a meteorite containing extra-terrestrial water – albeit locked up in minerals – had fallen in the UK, in the historic Cotswold town.

He explained that because the 1lb (0.5kg) meteorite was retrieved quickly, within around 12 hours, it was not contaminated by water and materials on Earth.

He continued: “We always try and match the composition of the water meteorites and other extra-terrestrial materials to the composition of the water on the Earth.

“For most meteorites, the challenge we have is that they are just contaminated, whereas with Winchcombe we really know that it really hasn’t been contaminated, so it’s good evidence.”

Fragments from the meteorite which landed in Winchcombe last year
Image:
Fragments from the meteorite which landed in Winchcombe last year

Dr King went on: “One of the big questions we have in planetary sciences is where did the water on Earth come from? And one of the obvious places is either through comets that have loads and loads of ice in them, or asteroids.

“There’s always a debate – were comets the main source, were asteroids the main source?”

But he explained that data from missions to comets suggest they are not a good match for the water on earth, adding: “The composition of the water in Winchcombe is a much better match, so that would imply that asteroids – carbonaceous asteroids – were probably the main source of water to the inner solar system, to the Earth.”

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Dr King continued: “We’ve had a hint that some asteroids match back nicely to the Earth.

“But now we have a meteorite which is really fresh that we know hasn’t been modified, and it’s confirming that same story.”

Speaking at De Montfort University, which is hosting the festival, Dr King revealed that analysis suggests that the meteorite derived from an asteroid somewhere near Jupiter.

It is believed to have been formed around 4.6 billion years ago and has taken some 300,000 years to reach Earth.

As it stands, there are approximately 65,000 known meteorites on Earth.

The meteorite found in Winchcombe is the first known carbonaceous chondrite to have been found in the UK, and the first to be recovered across the country in 30 years.

Be ‘less squeamish’ about drinking reprocessed sewage water, environment chief says | UK News

Britons should be “less squeamish” about drinking reprocessed sewage water, and stop treating the resource as a “free good”, the head of the Environment Agency has said.

It comes as water companies have been accused of dumping sewage into rivers and the sea over the last few weeks, triggering warnings about contaminated water.

There have been growing calls to strip water company bosses of their multimillion-pound bonuses after outrage at how much sewage is being pumped into the sea.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Sir James Bevan, head of the Environment Agency, said that people in the UK should be “less squeamish” when it comes to drinking water that has previously been mixed with sewage, as water companies plan to recycle water directly from flushed toilets.

Sir James says this type of water is “perfectly safe and healthy, but not something many people fancy”.

He added we should “change the way they think about water”, and “treat it as a precious resource, not a free good”.

“We need to remember where it comes from: when we turn on the tap, what comes out started in a river, lake, or aquifer,” he wrote.

“The more we take, the more we drain those sources and put stress on nature and wildlife.

“If we are going to get there, we are all going to have to think differently. Some of these measures will be unpopular, so future governments will need to show political will.”

Sir James’s comments come as a Channel 4 News investigation found more than 870 water pipes in the UK could be dumping sewage without permits.

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Sewage alerts keep swimmers away

More than 200 of those have been confirmed to be in use by water companies, the broadcaster said.

The Environment Agency told the programme: “Water companies have rightly been condemned for allowing far too many sewage spills, and we are holding the industry to account on an unprecedented scale.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: “We are the first government to take action to tackle sewage overflows. We have been clear that water companies’ reliance on overflows is unacceptable, and they must significantly reduce how much sewage they discharge as a priority.

“This is on top of ambitious action we have already taken, including setting targets to improve water quality which will act as a powerful tool to deliver cleaner water, pushing all water companies to go further and faster to fix overflows.”

South East Water announces hosepipe and sprinkler ban for customers in Kent and Sussex | Business News

South East Water has announced a ban on hosepipe and sprinkler use for its customers in Kent and Sussex.

The ban will start on 12 August, with an end date that has yet to be decided.

It comes just days after Southern Water announced the first hosepipe ban of the year for customers in Hampshire and Isle of Wight. That ban starts on Friday.

South East Water said its ban is necessary to make sure there is enough water for essential use and to protect the environment, adding that the ban would reduce the amount of water taken from “already stressed local water sources”.

It said: “This has been a time of extreme weather conditions across the UK.

“Official figures show this is the driest July on record since 1935 and the period between November 2021 and July 2022 has been the driest eight-month stint since 1976.

“During July in the South East, we have only seen 8% of average rainfall for the month, and the long term forecast for August and September is for similar weather.”

It added: “The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the COVID lockdown heatwave.

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“We have been producing an additional 120 million litres of water a day to supply our customers, which is the equivalent of supplying a further four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne, daily.”

South East Water supplies 520 million litres of water every day to 2.2 million customers.

The water is drawn from more than 250 boreholes, six rivers, and six reservoirs.

The company’s website said that all customers in Kent and Sussex will be affected by the ban except those on the priority service register.

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Customers in Berkshire and Hampshire will not be affected, it said, adding: “Whilst demand in our supply areas in Berkshire and Hampshire has also increased considerably, we have not suffered from the same water supply issues as experienced in Kent and Sussex.

“For the time being, we are in a position that we can continue to ask our customers to apply voluntary restraint on the amount of water they use at home.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation, and will advise customers if circumstances change.”

The ban means it is forbidden to use a hosepipe that is connected to a mains water supply, including garden sprinklers.

Breaking the rules could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Shuja Khan, chief executive of data company Arqiva, said having a water smart meter can help people control their use.

He said: “Most people have no idea how much water they use every day because it can be really hard to conceptualise.

“For example, for every 10 minutes of use, the average hosepipe uses 170 litres of water, or almost 19 flushes of a toilet in the same timeframe.

“If people knew that just one hour of hosepipe use was equivalent to the same amount of water that the average family of four consumes over two days, they might reconsider their gardening patterns.”

Swimmer missing at sea and five others pulled from water after getting into difficulty near Clacton Pier | UK News

A man is missing at sea and five others have been pulled from the water close to Clacton Pier in Essex, the coastguard has said.

Emergency services have been called to the scene and a major search and rescue operation is underway to find the man after six people got into difficulty off the coast.

Nigel Brown, communications manager for Clacton Pier, said the current “dragged” a group towards the pier.

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It comes as a man in his 20s died while swimming in a lake at Cotswold Water Park in Wiltshire.

Police were called shortly after 6pm on Monday but the man was confirmed dead shortly after being pulled from the water.

Staff threw lifebelt rings over the side to help some of those in trouble, he said.

Mr Brown continued: “Eight of them were in the water but my understanding is four or five got into difficulty.

“My understanding is one person was missing.

“The group that were in the water were very worried about one person they couldn’t see and were saying, ‘There’s one missing’.

“As far as I know, that person’s still missing. They’ve had the helicopter up.”

Mr Brown said it was “difficult to tell their ages” but he believed some were in their late teens and early 20s and fully clothed.

Essex Police said: “We’re on the scene assisting emergency services colleagues with a serious and ongoing incident close to Clacton Pier.

“There is a significant emergency services presence in the area while the incident is being dealt with. We’ll provide an update as soon as we practically can.”

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HM Coastguard said it was responding to “a report of multiple people in the water”.

A spokesman said: “HM Coastguard is currently responding to an incident at Clacton Pier following a report of multiple people in the water.

“Clacton beach patrol, the RNLI lifeboat from Clacton and Coastguard rescue teams from Clacton, Walton and Holbrook have been sent to help, as well as the Coastguard rescue helicopter from Lydd.

“Essex Police, Essex Fire Service and Essex Ambulance Service are also attending.

“Five people have been rescued, with the search still ongoing for a sixth man.”

Officials have been warning about the risks of extreme temperatures, with at least four people losing their lives since Saturday.

A 14-year-old is missing in the River Thames in London, while a 13-year-old died on Monday after he got into trouble while swimming in a Northumberland river.

Another boy, 16, also died on Monday in Bray Lake in Berkshire, while a 50-year-old lost his life at Ardsley Reservoir in Yorkshire.

A 16-year-old boy died after he was seen struggling in the water at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester, on Saturday.