During almost four years of observing the cosmos, the Herschel Space Observatory traced out the presence of water. With its unprecedented sensitivity and spectral resolution at key wavelengths, Herschel revealed this crucial molecule in star-forming molecular clouds, detected it for the first time in the seeds of future stars and planets, and identified the delivery of water from interplanetary debris to planets in our solar system.
Out to much grander scales, beyond our solar system and the Galactic confines of the Milky Way, Herschel has detected water in many other galaxies. As already highlighted by some of its predecessors, the findings corroborate the crucial role of this all-important molecule in the processes that lead to the birth of stars throughout the cosmos.
Herschel’s infrared view of part of the Taurus Molecular Cloud, about 450 light-years from Earth and is the nearest large region of star formation, within which the bright, cold pre-stellar cloud L1544 can be seen at the lower left at top of the page, I surrounded by many other clouds of gas and dust of varying density.
Water is essential to life as we know it on Earth. It covers over 70 percent of our planet's ...