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Black Hole Water

August 16, 2011

Water was abundant in the universe just 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang – in one of the most inhospitable places imaginable.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Water in the early universe…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Water was plentiful in the early universe, even in hostile places like quasars, which are galaxies powered by black holes. Now, a team of scientists has detected the largest cache of H20 ever, in a quasar that formed 12 billion years ago.

ERIC MURPHY (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science):

We’ve detected enough water to fill up all of the oceans on the earth roughly 100 to 150 trillion times.

HIRSHON:

That’s Carnegie Instutution astrophysicist Eric Murphy. He explains that as water molecules are heated by black holes, they produce the deep space equivalent of a fingerprint, which can be detected by special telescopes.

MURPHY:

If there’s that much water around already in an environment which is hostile towards life, who knows what the probability of having other large caches of water in less hostile environments so soon after the Big Bang.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.