A huge reservoir of water engulfing a quasar, or a feeding black hole billions of light years away in outer confines of the universe, has been detected by scientists.
According to a report of two NASA teams, the mass of water discovered in the environment of the quasar titled APM 08279+5255 is the biggest mass of water ever found in the universe.
The water body, which was found surrounding the black hole, contains the equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean and is 12 billion light years away from Earth.
Explaining how important the finding is, Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said the unique environment around this quasar is producing the huge mass of water.
Astronomers have said water vapor is present in the early, distant universe, but had not detected a huge water body this far away. The water present in the Milky Way is frozen in ice and the total quantity is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, a NSA statement said.
[The finding] is another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times, Bradford said. A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy.
In this particular quasar, the water vapor is distributed around the black hole in a gaseous region spanning hundreds of light-years in size, the space agency said.
The quasar harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns. The study says water vapor is an important trace gas that reveals the nature of the quasar and that measurements of the water vapor and of other molecules suggest that there is enough gas to feed the black hole until it grows to about six times its size.