NASA 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, Cali. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”
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 this 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.
side note: I love this stuff, but who comes up with the names for these things? APM 08279+5255? Is that the best we can do? Maybe kids would be more interested in the universe if these names had a bit more pizzazz… like, say, Aquamas Prime? Captain Quasar? Marketing, NASA, that’s all I’m saying.