According to a team of researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, vapors of water may have appeared in small pockets across the universe approximately 1 billion years following the Big Bang.
Previous theories said that water appeared later because the oxygen that was created in the first stars needed a longer period of time to disperse and unite with the molecules of hydrogen in large amounts.
However, the new study suggests that the origins of water in the universe go back earlier in time than scientists previously believed.
Avi Loeb, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and one of the scientists who came up with the new theory about the origins of water, said that he and his team analyzed the chemistry of the young molecular clouds that are known to contain thousand times less oxygen than the Sun.
The scientists were surprised to discover that they could get as much water vapor as they see in our galaxy.
According to the experts, during the first stages of the universe elements that were heavier than hydrogen and helium did not exist.
They believe that the first stars were massive but lived a very short life. These earliest stars were responsible for producing elements like oxygen, which spread across the universe via supernova explosion and stellar winds.
These astronomical events led to the creation of “islands” that were rich in gases and filled with heavier elements.
However, these “islands” were poor in oxygen, compared to what the scientists find in the modern Milky Way.
The scientists from the Center for Astrophysics studied the chemical reactions that could have led to the formation of water in the earliest molecular clouds that were very poor in oxygen.
According to them, despite the fact that these clouds lacked base materials, there was an abundant water quantity that could form inside them at a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shmuel Bialy, one of the lead authors of the study and a PhD student at the Tel Aviv University, explained that one of the reasons for the early formation of water is that the universe of warmer in its initial stages, compared to today’s temperatures, which prevented the gas to cool effectively.
Amiel Sternberg, the study’s co-author, explained that the cosmic microwave glow was much hotter back then and the universe had a higher density of gases.
The news study about the origins of water was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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