Water Detected in Ancient, Distant Galaxy From The Beginnings of The Universe

After the Universe created the universe, some of the necessary ingredients for life were not difficult to find.
A new analysis of two galaxies at dawn of time shows that water was only 780 million years old when the Universe was 5 percent its age.

This indicates that even though heavy elements are still scarce, it was not wasted time creating molecules.

After their light has traveled 12.88 Billion years, the galaxies are merging into one giant galaxy. They're the oldest galaxies known in the Universe.

Gravitational disturbances from their interactions are believed to be triggering star formation waves that use all available molecular gases. Astronomers were able, however, to see enough gas to obtain spectral signatures that revealed the presence of certain molecules.

"Using high-resolution ALMA [Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array] observations of molecular gas in the pair of galaxies known collectively as SPT0311-58 we detected both water and carbon monoxide molecules in the larger of the two galaxies," says astronomer Sreevani Jarugula of the University of Illinois.

"Oxygen, carbon, and especially water are first-generation elements. They are essential to the existence of life as we know it in their molecular forms, carbon monoxide, and water.

The light from the galaxies of the early Universe has traveled far to reach us. It is therefore very faint and difficult to see details. The interstellar medium found in these galaxies, however, is rich in dust that can reveal water.

Researchers said that the dust absorbs ultraviolet radiation from stars and emits it back as far-infrared. The infrared radiation stimulates water molecules in interstellar media, which produces emission that can be detected using a sensitive telescope such as ALMA in Chile.

Scientists can use this water to help understand the evolution and origin of the building blocks of life throughout the Universe's history by finding it at an early stage in its history.

Jarugula says, "This galaxy is one of the largest known galaxies at high redshift. It was also the time when the Universe was very young."

It has more dust and gas than other galaxies of the early Universe. This gives us lots of opportunities to observe abundant molecules, and to better understand the impact of these life-creating elements on the evolution of the early Universe.

The composition of the molecular cloud from which stars are formed can be used to better understand the amount of gas, the rate at star formation, and the number of stars that were formed in the early Universe.

This was a time in which star formation was slow and furious. Stars were thousands of times more prolific than they were in recent years due to the abundance of gas and dust from which they could form.

"This study provides information about the Universe's water distribution and reveals the origin of the Universe's water. It also raises a major question: How did so much dust and gas combine to create stars and galaxies so quickly in the Universe? Jarugula says.

To better understand the evolution and structural formation of the early Universe, we need to study these galaxies and others like them.

The Astrophysical Journal published the research.