Recipe for water: just add starlight

ESA’s Herschel infrared space observatory has discovered that ultraviolet starlight is the key ingredient for making water in space. It is the only explanation for why a dying star is surrounded by a gigantic cloud of hot water vapour.

On Earth, carbon compounds and water are the key ingredients for life. Now, thanks to Herschel, we know that both can be made around IRC+10216, and that the secret ingredient for water is ultraviolet light from surrounding stars.


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