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An ocean-sized amount of water is created and released every month into the Orion Nebula

An ocean-sized amount of water is created and released every month into the Orion Nebula

A new study, part of the NASA-funded PDRs4All Early Release Science program and led by PhD student Marion Zanessi from Université Paris-Saclay, is now available in the scientific journal Nature astronomy available. It describes a discovery that was only possible because observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were combined with quantum physics calculations.

In the Orion Nebula, all of Earth's oceans evaporate every month

As a result, the team was able to prove that in d203-506, a disk formed in the Orion Nebula and thus a breeding ground for planetary systems, an amount of water evaporates every month corresponding to the total volume of all our planets. Earth's oceans. Perhaps what is most surprising is that they are forming again in the same period.

“It's very impressive that, with just a few pixels of observations and focusing on just a few lines, we can find that an entire ocean of water is evaporating every month,” says PDRs4All co-leader Els Peters, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. “This discovery was based on a small portion of our spectroscopic data. It's exciting that we have a lot of data to explore and I can't wait to see what else we find.”

Ultraviolet rays evaporate water

Water represents the emergence of life as we know it today. Most of the water in our oceans was created long before the formation of the solar system in the cold regions of interstellar space at -250°C.

However, some of this water may have evaporated and formed at higher temperatures (100-500°C) when the solar system was still a disk of gas and dust orbiting our nascent sun.

Researchers can now describe how this works. The main role in this process is played by intense ultraviolet radiation generated by massive stars. According to researchers, this leads to the destruction and formation of water in the d203-506 system.

The James Webb Space Telescope shows the process of destruction and formation of water

The study found that when water is destroyed by ultraviolet radiation, a hydroxyl molecule is released. Overall, in the d203-506 system, the equivalent of the amount of water in all of Earth's oceans is destroyed and replenished every month.

Observational data from the James Webb Space Telescope also show that hydroxyl, an important intermediate in the formation of water, is also produced in large amounts of atomic oxygen. Some of the waters that make up Earth's oceans may have gone through a similar cycle.

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