Water is essential for life, but for astrophysicists, it represents something more. Researchers look at water in galaxies, its distribution and in particular its changes of state from ice to vapour, as important markers indicating areas of increased energy, in which black holes and stars are formed. In essence, where there is water vapour, something important is going on.
A new SISSA study has now revealed the distribution of water within the J1135 galaxy, which is 12 billion light years away and formed when the Universe was a “teenager”, 1.8 billion years after the Big Bang (already the subject of a previous SISSA study). This water map, with unprecedented resolution, is the first ever to be obtained for such a remote galaxy and is the main topic of a study recently published in “The Astrophysical Journal”. The authors of the study explain that the map can help us to understand the physical processes taking place within J1135 and shed light on the dynamics, still partially unclear, surrounding the formation of stars, black holes and galaxies themselves.