Saturday, July 23, 2011

Water, water everywhere...




A mass of water around a supermassive black hole has been called the oldest body of water in the known universe.  This cloud of water vapor has trillions of times more water than all of the Earth's oceans.

The black hole in question is actually a quasar, twelve billion miles away.  Quasars are the brightest and most powerful objects astronomers have found in the universe.  They form when black holes consume gas, dust, and other matter and spew back intense bursts of x-ray and gamma energy.  The black hole in this particular quasar is 20 billion times more massive than the Sun.  Given the enormous size of the water vapor cloud, scientists postulate that this black hole is far from done with and may grow to be a full six times larger than it is now.  At least to our perspective as what we're seeing actually occurred billions of years ago due to the time it takes for light to travel to Earth.  

In addition to giving us more knowledge about quasars and black holes, this find is more than just mere intellectual curiosity.  I think that it underscores something that people are not fully aware of and that is that water is actually very common in space.  Whether it is in the form of vapor, ice, or deep inside rocky planets or asteroids, water is there to be found.  Where there is water, there is life.  Or at least there can be life.  There may not be living things wherever water is in the universe but it's something that we need to live.  And it makes it easier to travel to a destination in space if you don't have to haul all your own water with you.  Not that we're headed to a quasar anytime soon, but I hope you get the idea.  Water, water everywhere... 



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3 comments:

  1. Cool. Yes, never thought about the fact that water would need to be abundant wherever we go. Growing food, not an issue...but you need the water. :) Interesting post. Thanks.

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  2. Thank you for reading, Goddess. :)

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  3. On Facebook, Dr. Rich said: "May need to check that distance again. 12 billion miles is much less than one light year.
    "Although, according to the standard model, oxygen is formed in the final stages of stellar evolution, so I would not be surprised to see significant amounts of water, CO2 and other simple molecules around every nova, quasar and black hole."

    Please contact Space.com for issues with the distance.

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