Water has been the focus of exploratory research by the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite and the Infrared Space Observatory operated by European Space Agency. According to the January 2002 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, vast quantities of water vapor were seen in star-forming regions like those in the Orion Nebula. Copious quantities of water found in the Orion Nebula, near a quartet of young stars known as the Trapezium has confirmed what astrophysicists have been predicting since the early 1970s. "Whenever the temperature exceeds about 200 degrees F, chemical reactions will convert most of the oxygen atoms in the interstellar gas into water. And that's exactly what we've observed in Orion," said Gary Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a member of the team that reported the finding.
The high concentration of water measured in Orion may have implications for the origin of water in the solar system. "The interstellar gas cloud that we observed in Orion seems to be a huge chemical factory, generating enough water molecules in a single day to fill the Earth's oceans sixty times over," Professor David Neufeld of Johns Hopkins University said.
Comets also have been found to be comprised of up to 50 percent water. The 1994 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 delivered 2 million tons of water onto Jupiter. One theory is that early in Earth's history, comets bombarded our planet delivering the water that now fills our oceans and rivers. Our oceans could be a result of the release of water from ice-coated dust. The satellite that shows that water is prevalent in space has found 120 interstellar clouds.
The research shows that water is not unique to our solar system and with water around other stars, the chances of life somewhere in space increases.
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