Uncovering Mysteries In Space
Reported December 2011
BOULDER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --It has an energy output of 1,000-trillion suns – that’s about 65,000 times that of the Milky Way galaxy. This mysterious object also contains the largest water mass ever known to exist. What is it? We have the answer.
They are bright, powerful, and energetic. Quasars have fascinated astronomers for years, but one quasar is special. The glowing black hole – which illuminates because it heats up after absorbing matter -- contains the largest water mass ever found in the universe! The water exists in the form of vapor.
“If we could condense it all into liquid water, it would fill the Earth’s oceans over 100 trillion times.” Jason Glenn, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado at Boulder told Ivanhoe.
Astrophysicists were able to view the quasar with a one-of-a-kind spectrometer that can see things outside of the visible spectrum that humans can see. The instrument was mounted on a large telescope that was positioned about 14,000 feet on top of a Hawaiian volcano.
“It actually has the most sensitive detectors that have ever been put on a ground-based instrument to work in this part of the spectrum,” Glenn said.
With this technology, researchers found the body of water is also the oldest we know about. The quasar’s glow took 12 billion light years to arrive at earth. Since one light year equals about six trillion miles, scientists suspect the water mass formed when our universe was only 1.6 billion years old. They believe the universe was formed about 13.7 billion years ago!
“It’s coming from a galaxy that emitted its light very shortly after the big bang,” Glenn explained.
This is surprising because scientists say the big bang did not create oxygen – and the water in the quasar contains hydrogen and oxygen.
“So, that means there was already a generation of stars in this galaxy that had lived and died and returned their matter back out into space within 1.6 billion years. So it’s quite a surprise and it’s challenging the models that we have for galaxy formation,” Glenn added.
A fascinating finding that has experts questioning and searching for more answers about our mysterious universe.
Professor Glenn says the next step is to build a telescope in Chile at an elevation of 18,400 feet. This is the highest, driest place for a telescope without going into orbit.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Assistant Professor of Astrophysics
University of Colorado-Boulder
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