Water Vapor in the Stars
Water is the key to life. Without it, living things cannot survive and life as we know it cannot exist. Earth is abundant with life, mostly because its surface and atmosphere are mostly comprised of water. While there has never been absolute proof as of yet that there is life on other planets, scientists have discovered water vapor out in the vast universe. There are many different planets that actually have water vapor near or on them. Through intensive research, this important study has expanded beyond the clouds found in the Milky Way galaxy.
Planets and other celestial bodies, even those as hot as the sun, can have minute traceable amounts of water vapor. Other planets, like Mercury, have much more than that. Some findings indicate that there are even large areas where water exists in up to three percent of Mercury's total atmosphere. Planets like Venus and Mars also have some water vapor, but the amount is only considered to be trace amounts, which means it is less than one percent of the total atmospheric makeup. Jupiter's water content consists mostly of ice, and its moon called Europa has some water vapor as well. Even with this information, less than one percent of Jupiter and its atmosphere consists of water vapor.
- Some people believe that large meteorites once brought ice and water to the planet Mercury.
- There are theories that suggest that water and water vapor are able to be stored within large clouds surrounding planets that are at an extremely high temperature.
- New techniques are being used by scientists to better capture the presence of water vapor on planets like Jupiter.
- High-wavelength telescopes allow astronomers to discover water vapor in our universe. In 2011, they found one of the largest water reservoirs ever discovered using this method.
- Even on some of the hottest planets with no clouds, water vapor has still been found.
- Scientists have also been observing Pluto for water vapor and ice using imaging equipment that can be found in places like the Lowell Observatory.
- Water was recently found in the atmosphere of an "alien planet" that is one of the first ever discovered.
Saturn also has a detectable amount of water vapor, and so does its three moons, Titan, Dione, and Enceladus. This water is mostly made up of ice. Neptune has some water content as well, which has been discovered it its deepest layers. Uranus has some as well, but only in very small trace amounts. Ceres, a dwarf planet that is often overlooked, has a recognizable amount of water content. In fact, Ceres shows some water frost even on its surface. In 2014, the Herschel Space Observatory noted that there are definite water vapor-producing areas on Ceres. This body, could be creating surface ice because of its internal heat, which has caused volcano-like eruptions.
It is not always easy to determine whether a planet has produced water vapor. With new technology like the Hubble Telescope and more advancements in space travel from NASA and other private entities, making these determinations is becoming somewhat easier. Scientists have actually been able to see cloud formations on planet Neptune, which is a definite indication of the existence of water vapor. The MESSENGER probe has been able to more closely study the overall composition of the planet Mercury as well as its atmosphere. And although astronauts cannot yet visit it, Mars has been better analyzed with the development of technology like the Mars rovers. All of these new developments have allowed scientists to better analyze and even get actual samples from the many planets in our galaxy. While there is still no proof that life exists on other planets, this evidence of water shows that anything is possible.
Written By: Lynn Taylor