The star TW Hydrae, 176 light years away in the constellation Hydra, is surrounded by enough water to fill Earth's oceans thousands of times over.
"This tells us that the key materials that life needs are present in a system before planets are born," says University of Michigan astronomy professor Ted Bergin, a HIFI co-investigator.UD closes their post on this discovery with a provocative question: "If many phenomena like this turn up, but life is not detected, would that set of circumstances be taken to mean anything?"
While warm water vapor's previously been found in planet-forming disks close to the central star, this is the first time that such a vast quantity has been discovered in the cooler, far reaches of disks where comets and giant planets take shape.
"The detection of water sticking to dust grains throughout the planet-forming disk would be similar to events in our own solar system’s evolution, where over millions of years, these dust grains would then coalesce to form comets," says said principal investigator Michiel Hogerheijde of Leiden University in the Netherlands.
"These would be a prime delivery mechanism for water on planetary bodies."
Comets are believed to have delivered a significant portion of Earth's oceans, with comet Hartley 2 recently found to have the same chemical composition as our oceans.
The question arises because naturalistic evolutionists have been predicting for decades that life is almost inevitable wherever the physical prerequisites exist. However, if those prerequisites turn out to exist commonly throughout the galaxy but no life is discovered that would have devastating implications for the view that natural processes and forces are adequate by themselves to produce life.
On the other hand, if life is discovered elsewhere it would not necessarily have a serious bearing on the belief that intelligent agency is necessary to bring it about unless it turns out that the chasms of biochemical improbability that need to be traversed in order to produce life are not as prohibitively wide as they are on earth.