Slideshow

Water Appears to be Plentiful in Solar System and Beyond

Oct. 20, 2011, 2:35 p.m.

Wa­ter, it turns out, is not just com­mon on Earth and throughout the sol­ar sys­tem, but ap­par­ently in oth­er sol­ar sys­tems as well.

NASA re­leased evid­ence Thursday from the Her­schel Space Ob­ser­vat­ory that a vast ocean of wa­ter va­por is en­vel­op­ing a nearby disk of dust that sur­rounds a young star.

Al­though sci­ent­ists pre­vi­ously have found evid­ence of warm wa­ter near de­vel­op­ing stars, this is the first time wa­ter va­por has been found out to­wards the cold edge of the star’s dust disk, which will even­tu­ally be­come plan­ets. The wa­ter in this re­gion may even­tu­ally form comets, which will rain down on young plan­ets, seed­ing their fu­ture oceans.

The re­lease of the Her­schel data comes a day after NASA re­leased evid­ence of the comet bom­bard­ment of young plan­ets in an­oth­er sol­ar sys­tem. Re­search­ers be­lieve that the hail­storm of sorts is very sim­il­ar to the “late heavy bom­bard­ment” be­lieved to have brought wa­ter and oth­er life-form­ing in­gredi­ents to Earth.

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