Saturday, September 08, 2007

An Ocean in Space

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected enough water vapor to fill the oceans on Earth five times inside the collapsing nest of a forming star system. Astronomers say the water vapor is pouring down from the system's natal cloud and smacking into a dusty disk where planets are thought to form. The observations provide the first direct look at how water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it, begins to make its way into planets, possibly even rocky ones like our own. Dan Watson of the University of Rochester said, “For the first time, we are seeing water being delivered to the region where planets will most likely form.” The star system, called NGC 1333-IRAS 4B, is still growing inside a cool cocoon of gas and dust. Ice from the stellar embryo's outer cocoon is falling toward the forming star and vaporizing as it hits the disk.

Thanks to Kris Winkler for pointing me to this item

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