The Universe – or at least the pieces that we can see – has a lot of water in it—a lot.
We know about water under Mars. We now know, too, about the fact that Saturn makes a sloshing sound as it rotates, so the inside is almost certainly water (probably in the form of sludge). This is a recent discovery, and scientists used seismography to determine the core of this unique planet, and it turns out that much of it is water. And it ‘rings like a bell’.
The most recent watery discovery is much further away but is still intriguing. Scientists have spotted a quasar about 26 light-years away with a cloud around it consisting of water vapour. Quite a big cloud, scientists believe. In fact, 140 trillion times the amount of water in all our oceans put together.
Now that we can see more clearly into the depths of the Universe, it is becoming apparent that water is a big feature in space.
The fact that there is all this water in space must surely mean that the chances of life ‘out there’ is now greatly increased.
So, where then is this life.
The good news is that scientists are onto that too. Now that our telescopes are so much better than they were, from blurry smudges to crystal clear ones, we are finding a reasonable number of planets that could support life, perhaps better than Earth. And that is set to improve again when the James Webb telescope is launched later this year.
One candidate for life is reasonably close, a mere 12 light-years away from our solar system. Called Teegarden B, it even resembles Earth slightly and definitely has water, possibly an ocean. It is about the same mass as Earth, and it orbits its star, Teegarden, every 4.9 days and, frankly, looks promising.
Scientists are now able to do some sophisticated snooping, as never before. They are building a list of possible life-supporting exoplanets. With the new technology, there will be more for sure.
The question, obviously, is how soon can go and visit.
The answer, obviously, is not for some time yet. Being able to see the possibility, even probability, that there are life-supporting planets not far away, in galactic terms, is encouraging and will encourage us to keep going and increase our enthusiasm for exploring space.
It may even be that the Teegarden inhabitants have got to the stage of seeing us, theorising that the distant blue-green planet has water, could easily support life and are wondering if and when they can visit us. Or even meet us halfway in, say, another hundred years.