Seven hundred and fifty light-years from Earth, a young, sunlike star has been found with jets that blast epic quantities of water into interstellar space, shooting out droplets that move faster than a speeding bullet.
The discovery suggests that protostars may be seeding the universe with water. These stellar embryos shoot jets of material from their north and south poles as their growth is fed by infalling dust that circles the bodies in vast disks.
“If we picture these jets as giant hoses and the water droplets as bullets, the amount shooting out equals a hundred million times the water flowing through the Amazon River every second,” said Lars Kristensen, a postdoctoral astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
“We are talking about velocities reaching 200,000 kilometers [124,000 miles] per hour, which is about 80 times faster than bullets flying out of a machine gun,” said Kristensen, lead author of the new study detailing the discovery, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Located in the northern constellation Perseus, the protostar is no more than a hundred thousand years old and remains swaddled in a large cloud—gas and dust from which the star was born.
Using an infrared instrument on the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, researchers were able to peer through the cloud and detect telltale light signatures of hydrogen and oxygen atoms—the building blocks of water—moving on and around the star.