A brief history of water in the universe
"Quick; think of a molecule. Draw it. If you're a chemist, heaven knows what you just drew, but if you're not, I'm willing to bet you just sketched water. The Mickey Mouse of molecules. Bright, bouncy and cherished the world over, with its shiny red oxygen atom from the model kit and a pair of hydrogens stiffly sticking out. Not only does it bumble around in your water bottle or tea cup, it's a basic necessity of life.
But where does water come from? Chemists don't make it (except when they breathe). It's not in short supply: there is of the order of a sextillion grams of it in the oceans and perhaps another ten oceans' worth trapped in the Earth's mantle. But I hadn't really thought about the origin of all that water until this summer, when prompted by a stint at the Vatican Observatory's summer school, the topic of which was water in the Solar System. I wondered about whether I was drinking melted comets1, recycled dinosaur pee2 or something stuck together in the past few milliseconds. Just how old is the water in my cup of tea? My musings prompted me to dive into the origins of water in the Universe, and offer this brief history."
Read the rest at Nature Chemistry
Dispatches from the Vatican Observatory:
“'As I do, a part of me grasps that photons, indivisible packets of light, erupted from the sun an hour and a half before, and now, having traveled almost a billion miles, are gathered into the maw of the Zeiss, to slide down the length of its tube and enter my eye. And still all I can say is “Oh my God.” What was born in the sun, what literally skimmed Saturn’s rings, caressed its atmosphere and careened off its moons, has touched me. Even now, weeks later, I am staggered to think that I have been so intimate with the planets, with the sun.
Karl Rahner, S.J., an eminent theologian of the 20th century, addressing a gathering of scientists, noted that, “To be able to stammer about God is after all more important than to speak exactly about the world.” The chance to be part of the work of the Specola is the remarkable opportunity to do both. Stammer out my awe. Speak precisely about what I have observed. To do science. To seek God in all things. Deum creatorem venite adoremus."
Read the rest at Collegeville's Institute's Bearings.