Where was it found? In a system with two exoplanets located 370 light-years from Earth. There, the James Webb telescope discovered water vapor in outer space. This was reported by NASA in a press release.
“These are new measurements made by the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). They detected water vapor in the inner disk of the PDS 70 system. It is located 370 light-years away,” the U.S. space agency said. This is the first detection of water in the terrestrial region of a disk already known to harbor two or more protoplanets.
“We’ve seen water in other disks, but not this close. And not in a system where planets are currently forming. We couldn’t do this kind of measurement before Webb.” Said the study’s lead author, Giulia Perotti. She is with the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany.
The central star of the system has an inner and an outer disk of gas and dust. They are separated by 8 billion kilometers, and in between are two confirmed exoplanets.
Days ago, a group of scientists confirmed another discovery. They indicated that they have found evidence of another exoplanet sharing the orbit of PDS 70b. The system would have formed about 5.4 million years ago, a very high number for stars with disks where planets form. That’s why the vapor discovery is surprising, the scientists said.
Ice and steam
The team considered two scenarios to explain the origin of the steam. One is that water molecules are forming on site as hydrogen and oxygen atoms combine. The second is that ice-coated dust particles are transported from the cold outer disk to the hot inner disk. Once there, the ice turns to vapor.
Scientists will use the telescope’s other two infrared instruments. They hope to answer the questions raised by this apparition. Thanks to Webb, it may be possible to find water vapor in outer space more often.