Largest Water Reservoir in the Universe3 min read

Located over 12 billion light years away exists the most massive water reservoir in existence—which contains almost 140 trillion times the amount of water in all of earth’s oceans combined. As published by Fast Company, “researchers found a lake of water so large that it could provide each person on Earth an entire planet’s worth of water—20,000 times over”. This water reservoir surrounds a quasar; a quasar is a gargantuan black hole that swallows the encircling ring of matter, such as space dust and gaseous material, simultaneously ejecting massive amounts of energy. The black hole that is shrouded by this unimaginably humungous cloud of water is said to be 20 billion times the size of the sun, and produces an amount of energy equivalent to that of trillions and trillions of suns. However, it’s the reservoir that’s even more fascinating, since it can fill up planets in many galaxies—all to be as moist and wet as our own planet!

Quasar Drenched in Water Vapor This artist's concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus. While this figure shows the quasar's torus approximately edge-on, the torus around APM 08279+5255 is likely positioned face-on from our point of view.  Image credit: NASA/ESA

Quasar Drenched in Water Vapor
This artist’s concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus. While this figure shows the quasar’s torus approximately edge-on, the torus around APM 08279+5255 is likely positioned face-on from our point of view.
Image credit: NASA/ESA

As said by Matt Bradford, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “it’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times”. And one of the truly intriguing aspects of this discovery is the fact that scientists had spotted it 12 billion light years away—which means that they were viewing the universe from 12 billion years ago… when the universe was still relatively young (around 1.6 billion years old). This indicates that water has been existent in the universe from the very start of everything as we know it. This could create truly wonderful possibilities about life on other planets.

All the same, since this galactic volume of water is spread over such a huge distance, this distance effectively manages to undermine this ginormous amount of water vapor—to the extent that the vapor density of the ambience is 300 trillion times less dense than the atmosphere in a room; basically, the water vapor is an extremely fine, light, diaphanous mist. Perhaps not enough to bring living creature to life… but who knows? A once burning sphere of fire has now become an incredibly powerful planet, now termed the “Blue Planet”.

It’s so strange to know that water, the lifeline of humanity, can suddenly become worthy of science fiction! Glasses of water, which we see all around us, look so disarmingly innocent, barely worthy of our attention. But when grouped together, those innocent, sparkling little droplets have the potential to become one of the most intriguing entities ever to exist in the universe! However, it may be quite depressing to know that while certain parts of the world are struggling under drought-like conditions, an overwhelmingly large amount of water exists out there in the universe; even worse, moreover, is the realization that if humanity has come far enough to detect a water reservoir out there in the deepest throes of the cosmos, it is still unable to provide all of its people with adequate, sustainable amounts of fresh drinking water. Even though the discovery of the water reservoir is one of the most exciting astronomical findings ever, it is still an important message to humanity.

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