Astronomers have discovered the largest and oldest mass of water ever detected in the universe — a gigantic, 12-billion-year-old cloud harboring 140 trillion times more water than all of Earth's oceans combined.
The cloud of water vapor surrounds a supermassive black hole called a quasar located 12 billion light-years from Earth. The discovery shows that water has been prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence, researchers said.
"Because the light we are seeing left this quasar more than 12 billion years ago, we are seeing water that was present only some 1.6 billion years after the beginning of the universe," said study co-author Alberto Bolatto, of the University of Maryland, in a statement. "This discovery pushes the detection of water one billion years closer to the Big Bang than any previous find."