24 July 2012

Water in space

When I was growing up, the conventional wisdom was that life might be unique on earth because there was probably no water in "outer space."  That paradigm sure has changed, as explained at Fast Company:
Researchers found [an amount] of water so large that it could provide each person on Earth an entire planet’s worth of water--20,000 times over...

The water is in a cloud around a huge black hole... and the waves of energy the black hole releases make water by literally knocking hydrogen and oxygen atoms together.

That one cloud of newly discovered space water vapor could supply 140 trillion planets that are just as wet as Earth is... The new cloud of water is enough to supply 28 galaxies with water...

...a distance of 12 billion light years. That means they were also looking back in time 12 billion years*, to when the universe itself was just 1.6 billion years old. They were watching water being formed at the very start of the known universe, which is to say, water was one of the first substances formed, created in galactic volumes from the earliest time.
*not quite correct. See embeetee's comment.


  1. Indeed! Lots of H2O out there alright. Jupiter's Moon Europa is roughly the same size as our moon, and it's possible that it holds more liquid water than the Earth.

  2. It probably tastes terrible.

  3. Brita Voyager. --A.

  4. Awesome... Water made by atoms being forced together...
    I can't help but think of the episode of Futurama where Bender manages to replicate himself on a smaller and smaller scale until he has made millions of microscopic Benders who promptly get to work work stealing water and carbon dioxide and forcing them together to make alcohol to drink.


  5. Cool, interesting.

    Not to be picayune, but something that is 12 billion light years from us is not 12 billion years old.

    The universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, so though the age of the universe is approx 14 billion years, the observable universe is approx 90 billion light years across.

    A light year is the distance light would travel in a year in a non-expanding universe.

    1. If the speed of light is a constant, then why does it matter if the universe is steady state, contracting, or expanding? Unless time is not a constant? How far is a mile in an expanding universe?

  6. Kinda ironic that we'll probably be having water wars here in 50 years and knowing so much is out of reach.


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