Wet Universe

StarDate: January 10, 2012

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If you decide to tour the cosmos, be sure to take along an umbrella — it’s wet out there! Astronomers are finding water on planets and moons, around young stars, and even around giant black holes.

There’s a lot of water in our own solar system. Most of it is in the form of ice, but there’s some liquid water on one of the moons of Saturn, and perhaps on several moons of Jupiter.

A space-based infrared telescope detected massive amounts of water vapor in a disk around a newborn star in Hydra, the water snake — thousands of times more water than is found in Earth’s oceans. The water most likely is vaporizing off the surfaces of small bits of ice and rock. The star is only a few million years old, and the disk of material around it could either contain planets or be giving birth to planets. If so, then they’ll have one of the key ingredients for life: water.

The same telescope also saw “jets” of water shooting into space from the poles of another star. The finding shows that the star itself is surrounded by a lot of water, and that it’s pumping a good bit of it into the galaxy — perhaps to be incorporated into other star systems.

And there’s even evidence of abundant water around a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy — enough to fill Earth’s oceans billions of times over.

Here on Earth, water is the key ingredient for storms. But a distant “failed star” appears to have giant storms without water. More about that tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011

 

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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