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How Does Water go From Interstellar Clouds to Habitable Worlds?

19 Apr 2021, 02:13 UTC
How Does Water go From Interstellar Clouds to Habitable Worlds?
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Water moves. On Earth, it moves in the form of rivers, rain, or ocean swells. In space, its movements are more subtle but no less more important, and so far we understand very little about that process. Luckily, we had a tool to help us try to understand it better – the Hershel Space Observatory. Though it has been out of commission for over 8 years, a team of scientists have now compiled all a review of all of the papers using Hershel data to track water from its birth in interstellar clouds to its eventual resting place on planets. There are still some gaps, but it’s a worthy step towards a better understanding.

Hershel, which was launched in 2009, had a specific instrument called the Heterodyne Instrument for Far-Infrared (HIFI). Designed by Dutch scientists, one of HIFI’s primary objectives was to look for water in space.

Artist depiction of the HIFI instrument that was used as a basis of the review paper.Credit: Caltech / NASA / ESA

Tracing one of the most common molecules in the universe isn’t easy, partially because it can be found almost everywhere. From shockwaves caused by star formation to plumes off Saturn’s moon Enceladus, ...

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