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12-billion-year-old body of water discovered floating in space

12-billion-year-old body of water discovered floating in space

It's 140 trillion times larger than all the world's oceans combined.

Many exciting things have been discovered in space - perhaps the most exciting up to now however, is a body of water.

Yep, that's right. Water in space.

In 2011, astronomers discovered the largest and most distant reservoir of water ever detected in the universe.

The vast body of water surrounds a black hole called a quasar, which is over 12 billion light-years away.

But, just how far away is that?

Well, one light year is the distance light can travel in one year, which is about 5.88 trillion miles. So this multiplied by twelve is just... far too many zeros to comprehend.

/ Pixabay
/ Pixabay

The two teams of astronomers at Caltech noticed that the water in the quasar, APM 08279+5255, is 140 trillion times larger than all the world's oceans combined here on Earth.

The observations revealed that the reservoir developed when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old. To put this into context, the universe is now almost 14 billion years old.

Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, commented on the success of the discovery confirming the presence of water in space.

He 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 pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times."

The presence of water isn't that surprising to astronomers - NASA for one invests millions of dollars in searching for water on other planets.


Scientific theories speculate water vapour was present in the early days of the universe.

And although water appears throughout the Milky Way, it is actually in the form of ice. This means it takes up a lot less space than that found in the quasar.

It spreads across hundreds of light-years in size, and is at a temperature of around -53 °C, which is surprisingly warm, according to space experts.

By detecting several signatures of water vapour even further, Bradford's team was able to gain further insights into its properties, one being its remarkable mass.

Water vapour serves as an important trace gas that reflects the nature and state of the quasar. Its presence around the black hole suggests unusually warm and dense conditions in the surrounding gas region.

To develop our understanding of the vast universe further, the Caltech researchers suggested building and utilising a 25 metre telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert.

Featured Image Credit: NASA/ESA / Pixabay