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NASA Space Science

Astronomers Find Largest Known Extraterrestrial Water Reserve 183

Posted by timothy
from the sticking-with-fiji-water-for-now dept.
gerddie writes "Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. One team, lead by Matt Bradford, made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called 'Z-Spec' at the California Institute of Technology's Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (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), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California. The second group led, by Dariusz Lisused, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water. In 2010, this team serendipitously detected water in APM 8279+5255, observing one spectral signature. Bradford's team was able to get more information about the water, including its enormous mass, because they detected several spectral signatures of the water."
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Astronomers Find Largest Known Extraterrestrial Water Reserve

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    12 billion light years away means 12 billion years ago. That water will be scattered asunder by now.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      12 billion light years away means 12 billion years ago. That water will be scattered asunder by now.

      Very good, you almost understand relativity. Hint: the word "now" in your statement has no meaning.

      • He may be correct, so long as he was using the correct place to measure time. "Now" is dependent on your frame of reference, if the frame of reference is earth then "now" there is a metric fuck-ton of water around that super massive black hole, if the frame of reference is there then there may be "now," a lot less. Who know's what "now" via an earth based frame of reference +12 billion years will hold.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Hint: the word "now" in your statement has no meaning.

        Sure it does.

        If I'm reading this then:

        a) I exist
        b) The event happened in my recent past.

        That narrows it down to within a couple of dozen years from my point of view. That makes perfect sense to me.

        • Sure it does.

          If I'm reading this then:

          a) I exist b) The event happened in my recent past.

          That narrows it down to within a couple of dozen years from my point of view. That makes perfect sense to me.

          So you don't understand cosmological terminology, then. "Now" means that whatever we see currently, regardless of how long ago it happened (i.e., regardless of distance), is occurring now.

    • by Sulphur (1548251) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @03:15PM (#36858380)

      12 billion light years away means 12 billion years ago. That water will be scattered asunder by now.

      The water will be gathered by the black hole, which is still there. The black hole may contain the rest of the ingredients for Kool Aid.

    • 12 billion light years away means 12 billion years ago. That water will be scattered asunder by now.

      I wonder if a cosmologist could check the validity of that statement because it seems to neglect universe expansion. Looking online at APM 08279+5255, its redshift is 3.911. Plugging that into wolframalpha indicates the the lookback time is 12bn years, but that the "actual" distance at this time is nearly 23.7bn lightyears. Redshift: http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/bibobj?2008A%26A...479..703G&APM+08279%2B5255 [u-strasbg.fr] Wolfram: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=redshift+z%3D3.911&a=FSelect_**LookbackT [wolframalpha.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2011 @11:35AM (#36856962)

    we need to make a canal to bring it to earth

    • by AmigaMMC (1103025)
      How many Chevrons does it take to open a wormhole that far?
      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        At least 8. I thought they explained the eighth chevron was kind of a galaxy selector, and the 9th defined a target that was constantly on the move.

  • Feeding? (Score:5, Funny)

    by derGoldstein (1494129) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @11:39AM (#36856986) Homepage
    "surrounds a huge, feeding black hole"

    In this particular case, I think it's a drinking black hole.
    PA-DUM-PUM!
  • "Quasar Springs, all natural reverse-spring water. Our time reversal process uses the natural opposite of springs to bring crisp taste to your table, fresh from not being inside a black hole yet, and at under 99 quadrillion bitcoins per serving."

    Discoveries which are economically exploitable (like the discovery of North America) tend to generate more interest. Also and also to be ruined. We'd find some way to spill something into the ocean nebula.

  • by ChinggisK (1133009) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @11:49AM (#36857038)
    So basically, there's a freakin' huge ocean floating around (well, falling into a black hole) out in the middle of space? I submit that space is awesome.
    • by mmcuh (1088773)
      Or at least there was, a couple of billion years after the big bang.
      • Yeah, the series totally fell apart after it's 12 billionth season, but it just keeps limping along after it brought about the shark and them jumped over it. Looks like it's just going to keep on going and going till it's a lifeless husk of a show dying a slow death, sorta like The Simpsons.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "300 trillion times less dense than Earth's atmosphere,"

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      It's not really "in the middle of space". Off to one side a bit, actually.

      • by bledri (1283728)

        It's not really "in the middle of space". Off to one side a bit, actually.

        Actually, I think that every point in the universe could be considered the center (aka the middle of space.)

      • That's what they say about us. :)

    • Now, imagine life evolved there...

      • Now, imagine life evolved there...

        ...And due to the time dilation effects of intense gravity wells, we can simply travel to the black-hole, extract their quantum holographic imprint that still exists at the event horizon, and study them (in roughly one more Universe worth of time, providing it takes us about one billion years to create Light-Speed travel.)

    • by jfengel (409917) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:17PM (#36857634) Homepage Journal

      Not so much an "ocean"; the water is in the form of vapor, not liquid. It doesn't even look like a cloud, which is condensed water droplets. The density is most likely lower than the best vacuum we've ever pulled on earth. It's a lot of water, but a LOT of space.

    • So basically, there's a freakin' huge ocean floating around (well, falling into a black hole) out in the middle of space?

      Ka- WOOSH!

  • I think we should focus on sources closer to home, though.
  • At last (Score:5, Funny)

    by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:00PM (#36857118)
    Someone's found the universe's plug-hole. The only question is: does the water go down it clockwise or anticlockwise?
  • I think these astronomers have been playing Darius a bit too much.
  • "The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole"

    Sounds like the business model of the movie "Waterworld," if you ask me...

    • by rtaylor (70602)

      Sounds like the business model of the movie "Waterworld," if you ask me

      I will take 40% profit pretty much any day.

  • I have always hoped we would eventually discover proof of life elsewhere in the universe. Maybe this means it is a bit more likely?

    • Doesn't mean it's any more likely. Water is known to be quite abundant in the universe. While finding a whole shitload circling around a black hole is pretty cool, it would be more significant to find a shitload of water on a planet in the so called "Goldilocks Zone" around certain types of stars—for at least the type of life that we know of.

  • Does that mean there was water there 12 billion light-years ago, the light from which we are viewing now, therefore it might still be there but we can't tell for sure?
  • Someone should go nail this article to the foreheads of everyone involved in creating the movie Battle Los Angeles (in which aliens invade earth in order to steal all of our precious, precious water).

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @02:33PM (#36858138)

    galactic enema?

    • by Urkki (668283)

      galactic enema?

      Nah, more like pressure fusion steam cleaning. If it's crowded, the matter falling in to the black hole reaches billion of degrees, molecules breaking up, electrons ripped from atoms, nuclei fusing into new elements, before being ripped apart again by tidal forces (something like 10% of the matter is converted to energy per E=mc^2, when falling into a black hole in an accretion disk).

      And if it's not crowded enough for it to get hot, then the lone water molecules will get ripped apart by tidal forces anyway,

  • I can't say I'm any sort of metric master, but I'm quite certain 33ft is 11m.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It all goes down the drain..

  • The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

    So a feeding black hole is called a quasar... thanks for the *great* summary!

  • 12 billion light-years away

    Then it means there was water there 12 billion years ago. Is there any left?

  • Doesn't "reservoir" imply it's reachable, usable as a water reserve? This water was rotating a black hole 12 billion years ago, and was probably all sucked up by the hole or the water molecules ripped apart in the quasar jets by 11.999 billion years ago. I don't think "reservoir" is quite a right word here.

  • 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean + huge "tidal" forces from a huge, feeding black hole = KOWABUNGA DUDE!

    Somehow there is a Disney movie in here somewhere.

    "Space Surfers of APM 8279+5255"... OK its only a working title...

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