writes with news that scientists have detected water in a galaxy 11.5 billion light-years from Earth
. Evidence came in the form of emissions from water masers
around a quasar at the center of the galaxy. Detection at such a large distance was made possible by a closer, intervening galaxy which acted as a gravitational lens
"'We were only able to discover this distant water with the help of the gravitational lens,' said Violette Impellizzeri, an astronomer with the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. 'This cosmic telescope reduced the amount of time needed to detect the water by a factor of about 1,000,' she added. The astronomers first detected the water signal with the Effelsberg telescope. They then turned to the VLA's sharper imaging capability to confirm that it was indeed coming from the distant galaxy. The gravitational lens produces not one, but four images of MG J0414+0534 as seen from Earth. Using the VLA, the scientists found the specific frequency attributable to the water masers in the two brightest of the four lensed images. The other two lensed images, they said, are too faint for detecting the water signal. The radio frequency emitted by the water molecules was Doppler shifted by the expansion of the Universe from 22.2 GHz to 6.1 GHz."