Researchers have discovered an extremely large amount of water circling a distant quasar. While it’s not particularly novel for Astronomers to find water or water vapor outside of our solar system, this finding is particularly interesting due to the quantity, density and extreme distance. Water has never been found at this distance before which allows scientists to calculate a new date for the formation of water in the universe. Previous finds showed water was available around 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang, but we now know water was available after 1.6 billion years.
The quantity and density of water orbiting the quasar is significant as well; it’s nearly 140 trillion times more than found on Earth (try wrapping your head around that number!) and the density is greater than other examples of water vapor. Clearly that amount of water has been there for a while.
If you believe life exists on other planets, these findings certainly aide your argument, but the other side will note that it takes much more than water for life to thrive. The building blocks and essential elements for life can be found all over the universe; finding them in the right quantities, ratios, conditions etc. is a much more challenging task. One could safely concede water existed at 1 nanosecond after the big bang and it wouldn’t change the debate. Most people probably already assume what this finding shows – water exists throughout the universe and it has been available for a long long time.