Illustration courtesy of NASA/Caltech

Since we have an abundance of water found here on Earth, with some of it being undrinkable, it is difficult to truly imagine how dry our galaxy – and the universe in general –  is as a whole. However, we have seen quite a few abnormal bodies of water found in some unexpected places, so it’s only natural to speak of this one, dubbed L1448-MM. Located a mere 750 light years from Earth, astronomers have witnessed this young proto-star “shoot” huge jets of water from its north and south poles. Even more astonishing is how quickly the water bullets are traveling away from the star into the interstellar medium, at speeds exceeding 200,000 kilometers (124,000 miles) per hour, making them almost 80 times faster than a bullet speeding away from an AK-47 assault rifle

Woah! What?

Using the latest in infrared technology, the Hershel Space Observatory (which was sadly retired very recently) has discovered telltale light signatures of hydrogen and oxygen atoms – the building blocks of water –  from a star that is so young,  it’s still cloaked in its stellar cocoon. These so-called cocoons are generally made up of any remaining bits of dust and gas  left over from the star’s  formation. After astronomers traced the path of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, they concluded that water was forming *on* the star.

Click to see a larger image. Courtesy of

After which, the droplets enter the outward-spewing jets of gas (pictured in the image above), where the high temperatures blast the water back into a gaseous state — the state it remains in until it reaches the cooler surrounding material, which can be found at a distance 5,000 times larger than the space between Earth and the sun.

At that point, they decelerate and cool down very rapidly before condensing and reforming as water molecules. To put it in simple terms, the high pressures -with help from the intense gravity – experienced near the star’s surface would render the h20 into a supercritical fluid, which is a type of plasma.

As it becomes ejected at a high velocity with the surrounding gravity decreased, it would turn from supercritical fluid, into steam. The steam would gradually turn into liquid as the temperature cooled and eventually, it would freeze into ice., concluding the four stages of water.

Courtesy of NASA/Caltech

How much water are we talking about? Well, If we picture these jets as giant hoses – with the water droplets as bullets – the amount shooting out is equal to a hundred million times more water than that currently flowing through the Amazon River each second. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this discovery is that it could be a rite of passage for all young, and energetic sun-like stars. Since we know that water is a major component for life as we know it, this find could shed some light on the earliest stage of life in our solar system.

It may also help us understand how water fits into that equation. Since these proto-stars are propelling an abundance of water into space, this could also mean that water is even more abundant in the universe than previously thought! Which could have exciting implications for life as well!


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