Friday, October 21, 2011

A piece of the puzzle has been found

On physorg today, there's news about an amazing discovery. It confirms what scientists have been saying for some time: that Earth obtained its water through comet collisions. I confess I always doubted this idea. It just seemed impossible that the vast amount of water we see in our oceans could have been produced in this manner. But it seems more than possible now, given the new data.
For the first time, astronomers have detected around a burgeoning solar system a sprawling cloud of water vapor that's cold enough to form comets, which could eventually deliver oceans to dry planets.
. . . Scientists have found thousands of Earth-oceans' worth of it within the planet-forming disk surrounding the star TW Hydrae. TW Hydrae is 176 light years away in the constellation Hydra and is the closest solar-system-to-be.
"Thousands of Earth-oceans' worth of it". That's the key phrase. This not only explains the existence of our oceans but vastly increases the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe. As it says in the article:
"This tells us that the key materials that life needs are present in a system before planets are born," said Bergin, a HIFI co-investigator.
This is fascinating news. The odds on life being commonplace in the universe have increased exponentially.