Thales of Miletus was a famous Greek mathematician, astronomer, and pre-Socratic philosopher who believed that the originating principle of nature was from a single material substance.
Aristotle also endorsed this idea later on in his works.
For ages, humankind has been thinking about their origins and how our world started. Many years later questions like “how life came to earth?” and “are we alone in the universe?” still persist and require more effort and time.
It is pretty evident that water is essential for life to survive.
Therefore the quest of NASA and other space agencies to find life on extraterrestrial planets is focused around finding water.
Because where there’s water, there’s life.
So, billions of dollars have been spent on the question “is there water in space?”
And the Hubble telescope along with many other space missions helped us in the quest to find water in space.
Cassini Huygens which landed its probe on Titan (Saturn’s moon) back in 2005, also found water vapors spewing out through Enceladus (the 6th largest moon of Saturn) when it passed through it.
The moon is considered to be an ice world.
This moon is all ice.
And it’s breathtaking.
If you are a space lover like me, you’ll simply get lost in this picture.
We have talked more about this below.
The image shows the moon Enceladus. This masterpiece was taken by Cassini
So yes, water…
So simple, yet it’s everything.
Water in its original form is a tasteless, odorless, transparent, and inorganic substance. Very simply, formed when two hydrogen atoms combine with one oxygen atom forming a covalent bond. And almost 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water.
It is estimated that there are 326 million trillion gallons of water on earth. Almost two-thirds of the freshwater is locked up in glaciers and less than three percent of all water on earth is drinkable.
Water is the main building block of every creature on earth, although it has no calories or other organic nutrients. It is a physical phenomenon of the nature that makes water as the basic building block of all the living beings.
This means that if you take out water from the earth, it will bring an end to the world by wiping off every living creature.
But water has to be in liquid form. And it’s liquid in the habitable zone around the sun.
Our earth is in the habitable zone, which lets water to stay in stable liquid form over the surface.
A little too close to the sun, and all the water will vaporize in an instant.
Similarly, a little too further from the sun and the water will freeze in the form of ice on the earth, which will be useless for most of the living creatures.
Since the earth is in the habitable zone, the water on the earth is trapped in a cycle. As we all know that water exists in three forms, i.e Solid, liquid, and gas.
The water from glaciers coverts into the liquid form, which is then converted into gas to form clouds on the horizon.
The air then drives those clouds from one place to the other and when they rain, the liquid water is supplied back to the earth. This water is received by all living beings, including plants and animals.
The water you are drinking today probably might have been the same water that Alexander the great drank or it could be the same water that a T-Rex used.
If you are thinking about the water being contaminated then know, that although water has been trapped in the cycle on earth for billions of years, it gets recycled due to the physical phenomenon of nature.
Oldest living creature:
Many years before the animals and humans came into existence on earth, life in its earliest form is believed to have started underwater in the form of sea creatures.
That does not only include a wide variety of fish but makes water responsible for the whole underwater ecosystem.
Jellyfish for example are believed to have existed for about 500 million to 700 million years. Jellyfish are the oldest multi-organ animal in the known history.
Plants and Replication:
As we talked about earlier that water is essential for all living beings, water allows organic compounds to replicate among living beings. Replication is a process that allows living organs to copy themselves. Water is an essential part of photosynthesis during which plants use sunlight to separate hydrogen from oxygen.
Where did the water come from on earth?
Have you ever thought that from where all this water came from on earth? We believe that once upon time earth was a hot ball, which cooled down.
We know that Venus and mercury had water on their surface but due to extreme heat, the water evaporated into the outer space. Similarly, if the earth had water when it was a hot ball then all the water should have evaporated.
There are two possible theories on how the earth has its water. One theory says that during the creation of the stars, those planets which were closer to the sun like Venus and Mercury experienced hot temperature.
That temperature evaporated the water on their surface but those stars which were further away from the sun had cold weather. That helped preserve water on them in the form of ice.
That is why, when the earth was a hot ball, the water might have evaporated but since the earth was in the habitable zone, not all the water was lost.
Thanks to the habitable zone, the feasible temperature helped water to survive in a stable form on the surface of the earth.
The second theory states that as asteroids and comets have traces of water on them. Asteroids and comets are debris that exists from the time when our solar system came into being.
These bodies can be 4.5 billion years old, therefore they have witnessed the earlier days of this universe. Although they are small in terms of size, they are rich in water, mostly frozen.
These asteroids and comets orbits around the sun between Marks and Jupiter, hence they often come closer to the earth. Some of them are found in the deep space in the Kuiper belt, which is close to Pluto. While some are even further near Oort Cloud.
Since asteroids also orbit around the sun like other stars, it is probable that in the earliest days after the earth was cooled down; some asteroid or several asteroids might have crashed on earth, hence bringing water in the form of ice on earth.
The second explanation makes more sense and is also endorsed by NASA. Scientific evidence suggests that water that we have on earth resembles in their chemical markers with water that is present on the asteroids. In that case, it is possible that the water you are drinking and all the water that we have on earth came from deep space.
Presence of water in Space:
The great Venus. The Goddess of Love, as they call it.
According to scientists, Hydrogen was created in the Big Bang but oxygen came into the scene late. Oxygen started forming after the formation of massive stars. Historically basaltic plains on the moon, which are called Lunar Maria, were considered bodies of water, and early scientists believed that there is an ocean on the surface of Venus.
Although oceans and rivers were not detected on Venus, scientists believe that Venus had water some 2 billion years ago, making it possibly the first ocean world. But as Venus does not have a strong magnetic field, all of its atmosphere was vulnerable and temperatures started to rise high.
How high you ask? 470 degrees Celsius, yes that’s right. It’s enough to melt lead.
Turns out Venus is one scray Goddess…
Due to such hot temperate on the surface of the planet, the last reserves of water evaporated some seven hundred million years ago.
Scientists know this because Venus has a fraction of vapor in its atmosphere. So technically, yes there is water on Venus, still, if water vapor counts.
And this is not the case with just Venus only, many other celestial bodies have water in the form of vapors in their given atmosphere. And this tells us that water is more common than we thought it was.
Who can forget the great Mars, right? With Elon Musk striving to colonize it one day with his superb rockets, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy and more…
Mars has always been a subject of special attention to human research because it is believed that once upon a time Mars was not very much different from the Earth. Mars did not just had water but had oceans and had an atmosphere too. However, the planet lost its atmosphere when its protective global magnetic field was lost.
In other planet’s inner core cooled down and the bombardment of solar radiation made it the way it is today. A giant desert.
That loss of atmosphere left Mars prone to harsh solar wind from the sun.
NASA estimates that when that happened Mars lost its atmosphere at a rate of 400 kg per hour to the sun. That resulted in Mars losing about eighty-seven percent of its water reserves.
The remaining water on Mars exists in the form of ice and a very small fraction is present as vapors in the atmosphere. Studies suggest that some liquid water might also exist in the form of brackish or muddy water around the martial hills.
Water cannot exist in large reservoirs because of the low atmospheric pressure and freezing temperatures. However, due to the presence of magnesium and calcium, the antifreeze effect can keep water in liquid form, still.
The Italian Space Agency also detected a lake on Mars near the southern ice cap where water still exists in liquid form. If that is true then it will be the first evidence of a stable liquid source on Mars. Water that is.
This is the actually image of Europa, and it’s breathtaking.
Europa is the moon of Jupiter and scientists believe that water exists in the form of liquid on its surface. Tidal flexing which comes from Jupiter helps to keep the water in the liquid form underneath a thick icy crust. (Tidal flexing is nothing more than contracting and squeezing of Europa because of Jupiter’s massive gravity).
According to scientific studies, the ice crust (as it may seem) is about 30 km thick and has a layer of warm ice underneath, which makes it possible to have liquid water under that warm ice surface.
Hubble telescope detected possible water plumes that were coming out of the surface of the moon. Which further proves that water might exists on this beautiful moon in the form of liquid.
Ganymede is another moon of the planet Jupiter. And it is the largest moon present in our solar system.
It is worth noticing that among all other moons present Ganymede is the only moon that has its very own magnetic field.
According to recent discoveries, we now believe that a saline ocean might exist on this moon.
Hubble telescope backed it up by observing some signs of water presence on the moon back in 2015.
It is estimated that Ganymede might have a large underground saltwater reserve and according to NASA, Ganymede might have multiple layers of ice and water between its crust and core.
According to NASA, Callisto, which is another moon of the planet Jupiter, might also have liquid water underneath its thick layer of ice.
It is believed that Callisto has an ocean, which is approximately 10 km deep under the ice capping. However, the ice layer itself could be about 200 km thick.
Enceladus and Titan:
This is an actual image of Titan, as taken by the Cassini probe. The rocks you see are solid rocks of ice and methane. With the average temperature around -180 degrees Celsius.
Titan is the first moon discovered to have liquid on it. But the liquid is Methane.
From a distance, Titan seemed to have oceans and seas, but up close we discovered that all those oceans are of liquid Methane. There is water too, but of course in the form of solid ice.
As for Enceladus, as mentioned above, Cassini spacecraft confirmed that Enceladus which is the moon of Saturn has geysers of water.
Studies show that beneath the thick ice crust a 10km deep-water reservoir might be present at the south pole. In the year 2015, Cassini came closer to the moon and detected hydrogen, nitrogen, salt, and carbon dioxide, which was a breakthrough.
Neptune’s moon Triton is believed to have nitrogen gas and active geysers.
Scientists believe that it might have subsurface ocean underneath the icy surface but more research needs to be done on that.
Nevertheless, NASA calls Triton as the most active worlds in the outer solar system.
The poor Pluto is believed to have glaciers of nitrogen and methane with ice.
Although its unclear but pluto also might have a subsurface ocean like other stars.
If we take into account that, wherever we go, we find water, it’s not hard to believe if we find water on the Pluto as well.
Kepler-22b / 452b / 62/ 62f / 62e:
These are the planets as discovered by NASA’s Kepler space mission on its quest to find Earth-like planets.
Kepler 22b is the first confirmed planet that is in the habitable zone.
All other we mentioned are also believed to be in that sweet spot from their stars, not too close, not too far.
All of them are believed to sustain a stable water source on their surface.
The biggest source of water in Space:
What if I tell you that scientists have found the biggest water source in space, How big?
About 140 trillion times more water than the earth.
This water reservoir is floating in space some 12 billion light-years away from us.
Since the water was present in the earlier days of the creation and can be found on so many celestial bodies, finding water is not really a big discovery.
But this is the largest known water reservoir that we have found up till now.
It is near a Quasar, which contains massive black holes. These black holes consume the gas and dust around it and get bigger.
As these black holes get bigger with time, they generate around one thousand trillions times more energy than our sun and one black hole in a quasar would be twenty billion times higher than our sun, which makes our sun looks like a tiny particle. If we have to explain how much energy this is, it is 65,000 times the whole Milky Way.
How water behaves in Space?
Have you ever wonder how water would behave in space where there is negligible gravity. At the International Space Station, the astronauts feel nearly weightless and so does water. In space, the water does not fall because there is no gravity in space but it does not also splash everywhere.
Have you seen water droplets on the flowers and leaves? They don’t fall off even if a bee touches it because that water droplet has surface tension. This surface tension allows tiny insects to walk over the surface of the water.
This surface tension is the strong covalent bond of the water that brings it in a spherical shape. This is the same reason water does not splash everywhere in the space too because although there is no gravity, the water does have surface tension.
Similarly, if an air bubble gets stuck under a water droplet on earth, it would come out of the surface of the water. Since there is minimal gravity in the space, both air and water are weightless and there is no concept of any one of them being light in weight.
Therefore, the air bubble will remain inside the water droplet and it will not fall off because there is no force present.
Human beings have always remained curious about the universe. From an early age to the modern era of technology, we have been trying to find answers to many questions. Although with increased technology and research, we are in a better position to find our answers.
Water does exist in the outer space in the form of ice or vapors and even in the form liquid too but how long will it take for humans to leave our planet earth and explore these planets in person.
Maybe in the next hundred years or so traveling to a near star or moon would be a normal thing. We can only hope…
Some companies have shown interest in drilling ice on asteroids and some companies like Space X plans to take civilians to space. Only time can tell how successful we will be, meanwhile a lot of research has to be done. But one thing is for sure.
We will get somewhere one day.
Images credit: NASA