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Water Vapor Seen 'Raining' Onto Young Star System 53

Posted by Zonk
from the the-weather-outside-is-frightful dept.
tonganqn writes "Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope scientists have discovered huge amounts of water vapor in the young star system, called NGC 1333-IRAS 4B. From the article: 'The water vapor is pouring down from the system's natal cloud and smacking into a dusty disk where planets are thought to form. The observations provide the first direct look at how water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it, begins to make its way into planets, possibly even rocky ones like our own.'"
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Water Vapor Seen 'Raining' Onto Young Star System

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  • Oxygen and Hydrogen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:47PM (#20429681) Homepage Journal
    I can imagine large clouds of thin Oxygen and Hydrogen gas. But how do you get the gas dense enough to actually react. In those gaseous nebulas, the "gas" is nearly a vacuum. And water isn't going to come from anywhere but gaseous hydrogen and oxygen.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're thinking backwards. What is actually thought to be the case is that this water vapor is the result of the destruction of a large ice-body, typically a comet. There have been documented cases of two comets colliding, with the result being a relatively concentrated volume of hydrogen and oxygen. These comets are themselves thought to be formed from the polar regions of planets or satellites that have themselves been damaged or destroyed by impacts with other objects.
      • No it got me thinking. If we can see the water vapor from so far away then it suggests that it is a massive amount of water. I suspect it is a staggering unimaginable amount of water. But suns don't just throw water out, you can't have water vapor in a sun, it would turn to plasma and you'd just end up with hydrogen and oxygen. We know that stars eventually produce all the elements from a source of hydrogen, over many generations of stars for the heavy elements.

        I don't think a comet is going to be big enoug
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday August 31, 2007 @07:22PM (#20429933) Homepage Journal

      But how do you get the gas dense enough to actually react.

      And then, how did our solar system get gas dense enough to form solid ice in massive planet size bodies like Pluto, et al?

      I don't know either. Perhaps we are only seeing a minute fraction of the gas in that area. The water is a minor condensate, and the comets/planets are a minor condensate from the water.

    • by netsavior (627338)
      much of the ice in the universe also contains methane. When you burn methane it produces heat, CO2 and water. Crash that into a large cloud of oxygen and hydrogen, and you have a fairly likely situation of a sustained set of reactions that melt down the comet, produce water, and leave a nice mix of oxygen and CO2 so that life has a bunch of the key ingredients.
      • That's a lot of comets I would imagine for water to "rain" on a young solar system.

        Where did the comets get their water? Eventually a lot of gas is going to have to clump together and react, it's pretty thin stuff. I guess the coldness of space might limit oxygen's ability to act like an ideal gas and expand to fill the volume of space.
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday August 31, 2007 @07:54PM (#20430137)
      *clears throat, goes for slightly maniacal tone*

      Electric Universe! Come on, man, just think about it. It takes time to develope these things. Before we had the fancy, new Electric Universe, we had the Water-Powered Universe.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      how do you get the gas dense enough to actually react. In those gaseous nebulas/

      It's too nebulous a process to explain here.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hmm. Send the question to Astronomy Cast :)
      They'd be happy to answer it (or go to the Universe Today website).

      My guess... billions of years is long enough to make rare events commonplace. (I'm imagining oxygen and hydrogen ejected from dying stars, followed by cosmic rays causing oxygen radical formation (singlet oxygen is quite easy to make), reacting with any hydrogen coming in contact).
    • Strictly speaking, there aren't any gases in space. It's all ionized -- the universe is mostly plasma.

      As for density, the article is about a star-forming region, where densities are much higher. That's the whole point; gravitation is bringing all this matter together into a big cloud, and densities are becoming high enough that molecules -- especially ultra-stable ones like water -- can form.

  • by Froboz23 (690392) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:51PM (#20429731)
    How does NASA let this kind of filth be posted on their websites? Doesn't the Administration have censors to prevent these kinds of morally dubious scientific discoveries?

    Like hell if I'm ever going to let my children visit that star system.
    • Man, somebody's been a little happy with with the negative mods today. Parent is funny, not a troll.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)
        Now that the GP has been modded Funny your post is OT ;)
      • by k8to (9046)
        Amusingly, in my personal settings "Funny" is larger markdown than "Troll", so you just downgraded it (subjectively).

        (The background to this is that the collective slashdot sense of humour underwhelms me significantly.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Like hell if I'm ever going to let my children visit that star system.

      But they will be thousands of years old by then.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by cstdenis (1118589)
      Rule 34?
  • by cmacb (547347)

    'The water vapor is pouring down from the system's natal cloud and smacking into a dusty disk where planets are thought to form.

    Would this "disk" be Blue-ray or HD DVD?

    I'm wondering because the resistance to dust and water (mud) could be a deciding factor in the format wars.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The more I read about the discoveries in the solar system the more I'm inclined to believe Einstein's remark: "The micro cosmos is the macro cosmos". iow; we might be all part of an enormous chair or other substance. Think about it; even if you burn a chair you might destroy the object but what about the molecules or better yet; the individual atoms? What if the 4th dimension simply lies in size which, in some unknown scheme, is "wrapped" and thus endless ?
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pluvius (734915) <`pluvius3' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday August 31, 2007 @07:22PM (#20429931) Journal
    I guess this means that Spitzer has discovered a spritzer?

    Rob
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday August 31, 2007 @07:24PM (#20429945) Homepage Journal
    . . . we'd see giant terraforming spacecraft from competing interstellar coalitions laying down clouds of spores among the proto-planets in the hopes that life that arises on future worlds will be of their bio-tradition.

    Well, not really, but it's cool to think of.
  • How does water vapor even exist in a vacuum?
    • Um, vapor is one of two ways water can exist in a vacuum. (Ice is the other; liquid water is right out.) "Water vapor" just means a bunch of individual H20 molecules floating around.
  • One in Thirty (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Why did only one stellar embryo of 30 show signs of water? The astronomers say this is most likely because NGC 1333-IRAS 4B is in just the right orientation for Spitzer to view its dense core. Also, this particular watery phase of a star's life is short-lived and hard to catch."

    IANAA. Is this a reasonable explanation?
  • ...No One Can Hear You Stream!
  • oh noes! (Score:2, Funny)

    by larry bagina (561269)
    I just hope it's not chocolate rain!
    • I just hope it's not chocolate rain!
      I'm pleased to report it is not chocolate rain...it's purple. But since it's vapor: purple haze.
  • Is this really like our own? From what little I know about planetary geology, I seem to recall that water did not just rain down on our planet, but was possibly created at or near our early planet from constituent atoms. Could someone clarify this?
  • I wonder if this high energy, water rich, dust rich, environment
    could provide an environment where basic building blocks of life like
    amino acids, lipids, and such could form.

    Then these blocks could get frozen into the water vapor,as comets, and sent roaming.
  • by ozbird (127571) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @02:14AM (#20431717)
    ... = mud. You might have thought Glastonbury was muddy, but that's just peanuts to space...

    Seriously, this might solve how a disc of cigarette smoke-sized particles can condense to form planetesimals, and thus planets.
  • This could as well be vaporware
  • Below the story Slashdot has "Related Stores - Firehose: ..." At first I thought it was being suggested by submitter that a fire hose is being used to inject water into new planets.

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