Astronomers studying the formation of a distant star have discovered a cloud of water in space. Water, which is ordinary water as we know it from Earth, as well as heavy water — water where hydrogen atoms have been replaced by deuterium — could offer new insights into the origins of water in our solar system.
This discovery is also interesting because it is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the composition of water in a protoplanetary disk. The disk of matter lies about 1,300 light-years away in the constellation of Orion called V883 Orionis. On top of teaching us more about the origin of water in our solar system, space-based water cloud astronomers teach us more about star formation.
According to researchers co-authored with A new leafBeing able to measure the amount of water in a protoplanetary disk will finally help us bridge the gaps in what happens between the protostar phase and comets created from the remnants of planet formations. It’s an interesting discovery that will undoubtedly help push our research into star and planet formation to new levels.
In most cases, water in space is usually detected as water ice. This type of water is commonly found on comets and even planets orbiting in the asteroid belts and asteroid fields. In fact, many believe that Earth’s water originated from comets. But where do comets get their water from? The discovery of this cloud of water in space may have given us the answer.
That’s because comets are usually made up of leftover material used to form planets. Planets such as these will be formed within this protoplanetary disk. As such, the concentration of water in this particular disk could answer some questions about how some comets get such high concentrations of water ice on them. In addition, it is important to understand how the water cloud interacts with the rest of the disk.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) made the discovery possible. Located in Chile, this large radio telescope can identify chemical signatures in protoplanetary disks, which allowed it to detect the water cloud in V883 Orionis.
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