Two teams working with researchers from the California Institute of Technology
have discovered the largest mass of water
yet observed. The gaseous, watery cloud was spotted around the quasar
APM 08279+5255 some 30 billion trillion miles from Earth. And yes, there will be a lot more "-illions" used before the end of this post.
The water surrounding the quasar is in the form of vapor, but taken all together it is about 140 trillion times the amount of water in Earth's oceans and is 100,000 times more massive than our sun. Because the quasar is so far away, its light has taken 12 billion years to reach Earth. This fantastic distance gives scientists a unique look at what the universe looked like when it was a mere 1.6 billion years old. (For reference, NASA estimates that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.) Interestingly, water is not uncommon throughout the universe, though the amount of water around this quasar alone is estimated to be 4,000 times the water in the Milky Way.