StarTalk Radio: “The Water Universe” –The Core of a Galaxy was Recently Discovered To Harbor 140 Trillion Times the Water in Earth’s Oceans




We recently reported on an enormous galaxy that at its core contains an equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounding a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

Astronomers have found the most distant signs of water  to date in the image at the top of the page. The water vapor is thought to be contained in a maser, a jet ejected from a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, named MG J0414+0534. The radiation from the water maser was emitted when the Universe was only about 2.5 billion years old, a fifth of its current age.

From clouds to rivers, and glaciers to oceans, water is everywhere on Earth. What’s less well-known, though, is how abundant the molecule is in space. But, unlike on Earth, most of the water in space takes either the form of vapor or forms ice mantles stuck to interstellar dust grains. This is because the extremely low density of interstellar space – which is trillions of times lower than air, prevents the formation of liquid water.

Find out just how abundant water is, when cosmochemist Natalie Starkey hosts StarTalk for the first time. She’s joined by co-host Chuck Nice and planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton.

Listen to StarTalk Radio Here 

Get the scoop on new evidence that suggests most of Earth’s water didn’t come from comets, but rather from the same rocky material that built up our planet. Explore whether a planet is “born wet” or not, and how the formation of a celestial body determines what kind of water it has. Is the water ice on comets salty, fresh, or just “dirty” with minerals and “gloopy” from complex organic hydrocarbons. Would comets and asteroids be more useful providing water for Earth, or as fueling stations for space exploration, providing hydrogen for fuel, oxygen for breathing and water for drinking?

Natalie and Lindy look at the status of water here on Earth, from pollution, to scarcity, to the lack of regulations protecting our aquifers.

And of course, no discussion about space water would be complete without pondering the possibility of life, whether in the ancient subsurface oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, or on one of the 600 million Earth-like exoplanets scattered throughout the universe. Lindy also shares the story of when she first “made” water in a lab by burning hydrogen, and you’ll hear why, for humans, there’s no man-made alternative to water.

The Daily Galaxy via StarTalk and NASA



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