Black Hole Holds Universe’s Biggest Water Supply….Hunter Worsfold
Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever found in the universe. It’s 12 billion light years away, and holds at least 140 trillion times the amount of water in all the Earth’s oceans combined.
.It manifests itself as a colossal mass of water vapor, hidden in the distant APM 08279+5255 quasar. Quasars are bright and violent galactic nuclei fueled by a supermassive black hole at their center.
This quasar holds a black hole that’s 20 billion times more massive than the sun, and after gobbling down dust and gas it belches out as much energy as a thousand trillion suns. The water vapor is spread around the black hole in a gaseous region spanning hundreds of light years.
“The environment around this quasar is unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” says Matt Bradford from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release.
“It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times,” adds Bradford in the release. As the light from this watery quasar took 12 billion years to reach Earth, the observations come from a time when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old.
The water reservoir was discovered by astronomers, led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology, and using the Z-Spec instrument at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii and the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA) in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.
Both instruments observe in the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, which lie between infrared and microwave wavelengths. Over the last two to three decades, this technique has allowed astronomers to find trace gases, including water vapor, in the earliest universe.
Astronomers are now building a new telescope that specializes in these wavelengths. The proposed 25-meter telescope is called CCAT (Cornell Caltech Atacama Telescope) and would be plopped on the Cerro Chajnantor lava dome, more than 5,600 meters above sea level.
By measuring the presence of water and other important trace gases, it would allow cosmic researchers to hunt out primordial galaxies and more accurately study their composition. CCAT should start construction in 2013 and be completed in 2017.
courtsey: wired science