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 Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water 
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Post Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water
More cool scientific stuff:

NASA wrote:
Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water
07.22.11

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.

"The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it's producing this huge mass of water," said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times." Bradford leads one of the teams that made the discovery. His team's research is partially funded by NASA and appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers 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 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). Its presence indicates that the quasar is bathing the gas in X-rays and infrared radiation, and that the gas is unusually warm and dense by astronomical standards. Although the gas is at a chilly minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius) and is 300 trillion times less dense than Earth's atmosphere, it's still five times hotter and 10 to 100 times denser than what's typical in galaxies like the Milky Way.

Measurements of the water vapor and of other molecules, such as carbon monoxide, suggest there is enough gas to feed the black hole until it grows to about six times its size. Whether this will happen is not 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 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 Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water. In 2010, Lis's 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.

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.

Caltech manages JPL for NASA. More information about JPL is online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov .

Whitney Clavin/Alan Buis 818-354-4673/818-354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov / alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov


2011-223

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/fea ... 10722.html

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July 22nd, 2011, 2:34 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
That is very cool, more and more science is seemingly discovering the universe is a very hospitable place for life throughout.

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July 22nd, 2011, 2:45 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
Pablo wrote:
That is very cool, more and more science is seemingly discovering the universe is a very hospitable place for life throughout.


Water vapor being eaten by a black hole is conducive to life? ;)

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July 22nd, 2011, 3:14 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
steensn wrote:
Pablo wrote:
That is very cool, more and more science is seemingly discovering the universe is a very hospitable place for life throughout.


Water vapor being eaten by a black hole is conducive to life? ;)


I was speaking, quite frankly, in generalities obviously. Any discovery of water is a good sign for life, especially this much. Personally, I don't think I'd like to live that close to a black hole - guess it would depend on how good the schools were.

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July 22nd, 2011, 3:48 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
Isn't Dallas close enough to that black hole called Houston?

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July 22nd, 2011, 4:26 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
ok maybe i misread this, but why isnt the black hole eating the water? To my understanding the article said the water is lingering around it..but it didnt say anything about consuming it. if thats the case, how very odd indeed!


July 22nd, 2011, 5:09 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
conversion02 wrote:
Isn't Dallas close enough to that black hole called Houston?


5 hours by car, just far enough not to get sucked into that pit!

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July 22nd, 2011, 5:17 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
Pablo wrote:
steensn wrote:
Pablo wrote:
That is very cool, more and more science is seemingly discovering the universe is a very hospitable place for life throughout.


Water vapor being eaten by a black hole is conducive to life? ;)


I was speaking, quite frankly, in generalities obviously.


I couldn't resist... so I put a winky face to make it all better.

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July 22nd, 2011, 7:44 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
regularjoe12 wrote:
ok maybe i misread this, but why isnt the black hole eating the water? To my understanding the article said the water is lingering around it..but it didnt say anything about consuming it. if thats the case, how very odd indeed!

I'd imagine that the water vapor is far enough away to remain in orbit around the black hole, much like the moon revolves around the Earth. However, as the black hole gains mass and gravitational pull, it will suck in the water vapor closest to it and it's just a matter of time before its able to capture all of it.

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July 23rd, 2011, 9:54 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
More space water news...this time a little closer to home.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Hersc ... e_999.html

Quote:
Herschel confirms Enceladus as primary water supply for Saturn atmosphere

Observing Saturn, Herschel has detected evidence of water molecules in a huge torus surrounding the planet and centred on the orbit of its small moon, Enceladus. The water plumes on Enceladus, which were detected by the Cassini-Huygens mission, inject the water into the torus and part of it eventually precipitates into Saturn's atmosphere. The new study has identified Enceladus as the primary water supply to Saturn's upper atmosphere; this is the first example in the Solar System of a moon directly influencing the atmosphere of its host planet.

Astronomers have detected water, which is a fundamental molecule on Earth, in many different environments throughout the Universe. Given its key role during the formation and evolution of the Solar System, determining the abundance and investigating the origin of this molecule on and around planets can provide crucial insight into the history of our cosmic neighbourhood.

The origin of the water in the upper atmosphere of the giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - as well as in that of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, is particularly enigmatic. The first evidence of this water was found by ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) in 1997 and confirmed, a couple of years later, by NASA's Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS).

These bodies have chemically reducing atmospheres; oxidation reactions do not occur - due to the lack of oxygen - and astronomers do not expect large amounts of water there. Reducing atmospheres are similar in composition to the nebula from which the Solar System originated; the early Earth also had such an atmosphere, which was later supplied with oxygen by the first living organisms that appeared on the planet.

Although chemically reducing, the outer planets' atmospheres do contain traces of water in their warm, deep layers; however, the cold temperatures present at cloud level, which cause water to condense, prevent its transport to higher layers. Thus, the existence of water in the upper atmospheres of these objects calls for an external supply of such molecules, which may vary from planet to planet.

A new study, based on data taken with ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, offers a first answer to the puzzle in the case of Saturn. The main water provider to this planet's upper atmosphere appears to be its small moon Enceladus, whose plumes of water vapour and ice were detected by the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission in 2005.

"This is the first time we see a moon directly acting on its host planet's atmosphere and modifying its chemical composition," comments Paul Hartogh from the Max-Planck-Institut fur Sonnensystemforschung (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, who led the study. Hartogh is the Principal Investigator of the Herschel Key Programme Water and related chemistry in the Solar System, within which the observations have been performed. "This unique situation has not previously been observed in the Solar System," he adds.

The new detection, obtained with the HIFI spectrometer on board Herschel, is fundamentally different from those achieved over a decade ago. Whereas the spectra acquired by ISO and SWAS only revealed emission by water molecules in Saturn's atmosphere, Herschel has unexpectedly recorded absorption lines, as well. Thus, the newly detected water must be located somewhere in the foreground of the planet, along its line of sight to the observatory, and in a colder environment than that responsible for the emission lines.

"The best explanation suggests that the water detected by Herschel is distributed in the Enceladus torus, a tenuous ring of material fed by this moon's plumes and centred on its orbit," explains co-author Emmanuel Lellouch from the Laboratoire d'Etudes Spatiales et d'Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA) of the Observatoire de Paris, at Meudon, in France, who performed the modelling of the observations. The Enceladus torus is located at a distance from the centre of the planet of nearly four times Saturn's radius.

The first sign of absorption was found in spectra taken during Herschel's calibration phase, in the summer of 2009. Further observations performed in 2010 confirmed the earlier detection at various wavelengths. The fact that no absorption was detected by SWAS over ten years ago is due to the varying geometry of Saturn's system of rings and satellites as viewed from the Earth and its vicinity.

The rings and satellites are currently seen almost edge-on, whereas the configuration was much more oblique at the time of the SWAS observations. "This is a further clue implying that the absorbing water revealed by Herschel is distributed in a torus along the planet's equatorial plane," adds Lellouch.

Ultimately, part of the water ejected by Enceladus precipitates into Saturn's and Titan's upper atmospheres, while the rest reaches the other satellites and the rings. The high velocity resolution and sensitivity of the HIFI spectra allowed the astronomers to characterise the torus' dynamics and to investigate the fate of the water molecules.

"Combining Herschel data with models of water evolution in Saturn's environment, we could estimate the source rate of Enceladus and the rate at which water precipitates into Saturn's atmosphere," notes Hartogh.

The source rate is in agreement with in-situ measurements performed by the Cassini spacecraft. The study concludes that the water abundance observed in Saturn's upper atmosphere can be fully explained in terms of an Enceladus origin. On the other hand, Enceladus does not seem to provide enough water to match the values observed for Titan, and the issue of this object's water supply remains open.

"After Cassini's detection of Enceladus' plumes, Herschel has finally shown where the water emanating from this moon ends up - a nice piece of team work exploiting the complementarity of two very different missions in ESA's Science programme," comments Goran Pilbratt, ESA Herschel Project Scientist. "We now look forward to hopefully shedding new light on the origin of water in the atmosphere of Titan and the other giant planets as well," he concludes.

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July 27th, 2011, 2:08 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
more Space Water news... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/05/scien ... 5mars.html

NY Times wrote:
Scientists Find Signs Water Is Flowing on Mars

Shifting dark streaks on the surface of Mars are signs that water is flowing there today, scientists said Thursday.

The possible presence of liquid water is certain to revive speculation that Mars is teeming with microbial organisms. The recipe for life, at least as we know it, calls for liquid water, carbon-based molecules and a source for energy.

Until now, scientists have been able to confirm only that there is ice on Mars — but ice would not support life.

High-resolution photographs taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived at Mars in 2006, show fingerlike streaks up to five yards wide that appear on some steep slopes in the late Martian spring. These streaks grow and shift through summer as temperatures warm, reaching hundreds of yards in length before they fade in winter. One crater had about 1,000 streaks.

But finding streaks is not the same as finding actual water. An instrument on the Mars orbiter capable of detecting water has not, in fact, found any, but that may just mean that the amount of water in the flows is too little to be seen from orbit.

“We have this circumstantial evidence for water flowing on Mars,” Alfred S. McEwen of the University of Arizona, who is the principal investigator for the camera, said during a NASA news conference on Thursday. “We have no direct detection of water.”

Dr. McEwen and his colleagues report their findings in an article published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The scientists said the best explanation they could offer for the streaks was that they were caused by a flow of extremely salty water down the slopes. The salts, which have been detected all around Mars, would allow the water to remain liquid at much colder temperatures than pure water.

However, the scientists said, they have yet to fill all the holes in their story. They cannot, for example, explain how the water darkened the soil. They are also at a loss to explain why the streaks vanish each winter.

But, Dr. McEwen said, “We haven’t been able to come up with an alternative that we believe.”

The streaks have been definitively seen in seven locations and tentatively identified in 20 others. “The sites where these occur are rare,” Dr. McEwen said.

Scientists have known for years of vast swathes of frozen ice on present-day Mars. Many geological features like canyons, dried-up lakes and river channels point to the flow of liquid water in the distant past when Mars may have been warmer. Back in 2000, images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft showed fresh-looking gullies, which some scientists hypothesized had been carved by water. More recent looks indicate that they were more likely cut by carbon dioxide frost.

However, the areas where the dark streaks occur, located in the southern midlatitudes, are too warm for carbon dioxide frost.

“I think this is best evidence to date of liquid water occurring today on Mars,” said Philip R. Christensen, a geophysicist at Arizona State University.

Unfortunately, scientists are not likely to be able to confirm their suspicions anytime soon. The Mars Science Laboratory rover, scheduled to launch late this year, will not be able to help. Its landing site is far from any of the streaks and it would not be able to navigate the steep slopes. Dr. McEwen said that experiments on Earth mimicking Martian conditions provided the best hope for understanding what is going on.

At the news conference, Lisa M. Pratt, a biogeochemist at Indiana University, said that the best analog on Earth might be the Siberian permafrost. “This is very speculative, because we really have no idea whether or not there are extant organisms on Mars or whether there ever was life on Mars,” she said.

But on Earth, microbes can live in pockets of salty water that never freeze or even if the water froze solid, organisms can go dormant and “patiently hang out near the surface until spring comes around again,” Dr. Pratt said.

“If there were to be evolving organisms on Mars,” she said, “I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t adapt to that kind of seasonally available, very brief access to resources. You bloom quickly, you do what you need to do, and you go dormant.”

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August 4th, 2011, 5:28 pm
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Post Re: Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Wate
Maybe someone can throw out the difference between flowing glaciers and this?

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August 4th, 2011, 5:38 pm
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