Stars that 'watered' space, planets covered with oceans, the latest findings, hydrothermal vents on Enceladus and a vast underground sea on Ganymede, prove that the liquid element is common in the Cosmos.
Oceans trapped under ice appear to be pretty common in the solar system and one of them, on a small moon of Saturn's, appears to be quite hot.
"The most surprising part is the high temperature," said Hsiang-Wen Hsu, a scientist at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and lead author of the paper. "But that's the number we could derive."
If anything astronomers and cosmologists have been proven over and over again during the past few decades is that, in the universe, there is water everywhere. Tanta, which has gone from being a scarce regarded as a fundamental component of the universe itself.
There are stars "out there" (as discovered in 2011 in the constellation Perseus) where water literally surrounding space with gigantic jets of water equivalent to one hundred million times the flow of the Amazon per second. There is water in huge clouds of dust and gas where stars are born, and water molecules everywhere, floating freely through interstellar space.
Around distant stars, there are even "water planets" with fully liquid surfaces and in which what is missing is land. And protoplanetary disks integers, with new worlds in creation around young stars reveal, as with TW Hydra, the presence of enough water to fill thousands of times every ocean on Earth.
Here in our solar system, things are no different, and the findings of huge reserves of liquid element on are constant. Behind we leave the old times (just a few decades ago) where we thought our world was the only one who had the precious liquid which life would not be possible without.
"After spending so many years going after Mars, which is so dry and so bereft of organics and so just plain dead, it's wonderful to go to the outer solar system and find water, water everywhere," said McKay, who studies the possibility of life on alien worlds. He was not involved in either of the papers.
Enceladus and Ganymede
It seems like yesterday we all believe our planet was one of a kind. Of course, today we know better and we can clearly say that we were wrong. And the latest scientific findings are the living proof of that.
First, the finding of the large underground ocean hydrothermal vents on Enceladus, as on Earth, something that triggers the chances of there being life in that distant moon of Saturn. At 90 degrees Celsius, hot water emerges from the seafloor of Enceladus where it gets mixed with cold water, creating the conditions and environment necessary for a possible life. Here on Earth, entire communities of marine species are living around these fireplaces, authentic "oasis" heat amid the frigid and inhospitable ocean depths. Could the same thing be happening on that moon of Saturn?
The second finding, hand Hubble Space Telescope confirms that Ganymede, one of the largest moons of Jupiter, finally joins the club with large underground oceans. And under its icy surface there is much superior amount of water than the all terrestrial oceans together.
But these are just the latest examples. Scientists, in fact, have already been able to find water (and lots) frozen at the bottom of the deepest, darkest craters on the Moon, places where it has never been a ray of sun. And also have realized that Mars, which once seemed to have been similar to our planet Earth and had its own seas and lakes, has managed to retain some of that water mixed with other components at its poles and ground layers closer to the surface.
Not to mention, of course, asteroids and comets, which are millions in our system and containing, as in the case of Ceres (the largest object in the asteroid belt), huge amounts of water. Some researchers even believe that the water in our seas were not formed on Earth, but were actually brought here by thousands and thousands of comets that hit our planet during the "heavy bombardment" that occurred 3,000 million years ago, when the giant Jupiter, seeking its final orbit around the Sun, destabilized the Oort cloud (a huge sphere of icy rocks that wraps around the Solar System) and threw millions of comets in all directions.
The water then is not an "earth exception" but, in one form or another, is all around us everywhere and in abundance. And where there is water, there is also quite possible that there is life. So far, thousands of astronomers around the world have struggled to find extra solar planets similar to Earth. And one of the most important conditions to be considered as good candidates to host life was precisely these planets were within the "habitable zone" of their stars, that is, the distance required for the existence of liquid water .
Now, the growing list of moons with underground oceans of liquid water and far from the habitable zone, which in our system is occupied by Earth, opens new possibilities for researchers. The scientific goal of finding life outside our planet is getting closer as we now know the right places to look.
On a more practical circumstances, the abundance of water around us eliminate, in fact, one of the main barriers that existed to move forward in our conquest of space. And it is not the same having to leave Earth with enough water for a trip of several years down the road, or even at the point of destination. The costs of a manned mission are huge, and have been estimated at about $ 100,000 per kilogram (of whatever) that we want to take into space. Not having to carry large amounts of water from home will result to smaller and more efficient, easier and cheaper to build ships and, ultimately, able to get faster and farther to the destinations.
With Mars in the spotlight as the next big goal of a manned flight and human exploration of asteroids, the discovery of finding water "up there" has been received with enthusiasm by the space agencies as the increasingly numerous of private companies are determined to undertake the conquest of space.
Questions and answeres
1. What is the largest water reservoir in the Solar System?
Although the answer is not easy, it is clear that it is not the water on Earth. Today scientists believe that the largest reservoir of water is held undoubtedly in one of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn in the oceans that have been discovered. In fact, Enceladus and Ganymede, for example, might contain each more water than all of Earth's seas together. The largest reserve, however, could also be in the Oort cloud, the "home" of comets.
2. Does all comets contain water?
Most of them are made primarily (more than 70%) of water as ice, mixed with other materials. It is believed that Earth's oceans were formed after a "bombardment of comets" of the Solar System.
3. What about asteroids?
Although not as much as comets, they also contain a lot of water and, according to some studies, they could also have contributed to the "filling" of the seas of Earth.
4. How can we know there is groundwater on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn?
There are several methods we use to know. the most direct method is by the spectroscopy, measuring the "signature" chemical components of water, but we can also give clues of certain geological indicators (such as the presence of water vapor geysers on Enceladus), gravity or density.
5. Why is it so expensive to bring water from Earth on a space mission?
Anything we want to take with us into space need it storage in the space ship. Bigger rocket need more power. Another reason is that the rocket and its contents must overcome the pull of the planet, and that is only achieved if the rocket can overcome the "escape velocity", which on Earth is 11.2 kilometers per second.
6. Are there other planets with oceans on the surface, as on Earth?
Scientists believe so. So astronomers look for worlds outside our solar system that are in the habitable zone of their stars, ie the right distance to have liquid water.
7. Can we drink water from the moon or Mars?
Undoubtedly, future lunar or Mars missions have to get water in their destinations. They are increasingly developing better techniques to extract the water from the ground, both for irrigation and human consumption.
8. When will explore the underground oceans of Europa or Enceladus?
We still have a long time to go, but there are already space missions planned to "shoot" capsules with scientific instruments through the ice and sail as small submarine, exploring those oceans and sending data to Earth.