The Largest And Distant Water Reservoir In The Space
Two teams of astronomers in NASA have discovered the ever largest and distant water reservoir in the space. The water in that distant water reservoir is found to be equivalent to 140 trillion times more than all the water in the world’s ocean. It surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, which is called as a Quasar.
Matt Bradford, One of the scientists of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif, said, “The environment around this quasar is unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water. It’s another demonstration that water is extensive throughout the universe“. He leads one of the two teams of astronomers that had made this discovery and can be seen in the astrophysical journal letters.
A quasar is powered by a huge black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both teams of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255. This harbors a black hole which is 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.
Astronomers had expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in the form of ice.
Water vapor is an important trace gas that reveals the nature of the quasar. In this particular quasar, the water vapor is distributed around the black hole in a gaseous region spanning hundreds of light-years in size. A light-year is about six trillion miles. This indicates that the quasar is bathing the gas in X-rays and infrared radiation. The gas is unusually warm and dense by astronomical standards. Although the gas is at a chilly -63ºFahrenheit (-53ºC) and is 300 trillion times less dense than Earth’s atmosphere. But it’s still five times hotter and 10 to 100 times denser than that in galaxies like the Milky Way.
Measurements of the water vapor and other molecules like carbon monoxide suggest there is enough gas to feed the black hole. And this could do until it grows to about six times its size. Whether this will happen isn’t clear, the astronomers say, since some of the gas may end up condensing into stars or might be ejected from the quasar.
Bradford’s team started their observations in 2008 using an instrument called “Z-Spec”. This was done at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory. This instrument is a 33-feet (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA). This is an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.
The second group was led by Dariusz Lis. He is a senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. This team used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find the presence of water. The signal was at a frequency corresponding to radiation that is emitted when water transitions from a higher energy state to a lower one. In 2010, Lis’s team, by chance, detected water in APM 8279+5255, observing one spectral signature. However, Bradford’s team was able to get more information about the water including its enormous mass. This was all because they detected several spectral signatures of the water. This helped his team to determine the physical characteristics of the quasar’s gas and the water’s mass.
Other authors on the Bradford paper, “The water vapor spectrum of APM 08279+5255,” include Hien Nguyen, Jamie Bock, Jonas Zmuidzinas and Bret Naylor of JPL; Alberto Bolatto of the University of Maryland, College Park; Phillip Maloney, Jason Glenn and Julia Kamenetzky of the University of Colorado, Boulder; James Aguirre, Roxana Lupu and Kimberly Scott of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Hideo Matsuhara of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Japan; and Eric Murphy of the Carnegie Institute of Science, Pasadena.
Funding for Z-Spec was provided by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Research Corporation and the partner institutions.
This distant water reservoir with 140 trillion times more than the water in world’s ocean was found by two teams of astronomers in NASA.
You May Also Like: 1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really!