Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The origin of water in the universe

  1. Jan 15, 2008 #1
    I have read there's a lot of water in comets, and comets are abundant in the universe.
    H2 is also abundant, but oxygen? That means oxygen is also abundant in the universe?
    Why not sulfur or any other elements?

    Can anyone explain this to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Heavy stars burn helium in the Carbon cycle that generates Oxygen and Nitrogen.
    Elements that have an atomic mass that is a mutliple of 4 are most common since they can be built up from helium in variation of the carbon cycle. Sulfur is not that rare.

    Element Parts per million
    Hydrogen 739,000
    Helium 240,000
    Oxygen 10,700
    Carbon 4,600
    Neon 1,340
    Iron 1,090
    Nitrogen 950
    Silicon 650
    Magnesium 580
    Sulfur 440
  4. Jan 16, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Water is indeed abundant in the universe. It is composed of the two most abundant, reactive elements in the universe. Helium is boring, it hangs out with the neon moon crowd.
  5. Jan 16, 2008 #4
    It's clear now, thanks.
  6. Sep 23, 2010 #5

    I joined to ask a question.

    I found this link when I typed in "origin of water in the universe" but don't understand it.

    Crackpot link deleted

    Could someone really smart here help me figgure it out?

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2010
  7. Sep 23, 2010 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Leptolepsy: The web site you posted is utter nonsense. Please throw it in the trash and don't waste time to trying to understand it. You will never understand it because it makes no sense. The origin of water in the universe is exactly as mgb_phys explained it.
  8. Sep 23, 2010 #7
    I wasn't sure what it was on about, but I was intriged because it didn't make sense.

    That's the point for me at least. When things don't make sense I try to understand it.

    I guess, since I've never seen that model before I should assume its wrong? Does that mean whenever I encounter things that do not make sense I should accept what does make sense.

    I was hoping someone could explain it to me, not just reject it because it doesn't make sense.

    It seemed to have some truth to it actually. Oh well. And frankly - mgb-phys did not explain the origin of water in the universe in his post, just so we're clear.
  9. Sep 23, 2010 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Well, I can give a little more detail, depending how far back you want to go. After the big bang, the universe was about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium. Massive stars burn hydrogen and helium into heavier elements, including oxygen. When the massive stars reach the end of their lives, they explode in massive explosions call supernovae and scatter the heavy elements throughout the galaxy they are in. When the oxygen interacts chemically with the hydrogen still remaining from the big bang, you get water. This model is backed up by a huge amount of astronomical data. What more of an explanation are you looking for?
  10. Sep 23, 2010 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Of course.
    If you lack the knowledge to judge by yourself, you have to rely on those who do know about these matters. People selling "the ultimate theory of reality" are never (repeat: never) members of this circle.
    Actually, phyzguy accurately explained the content of this site: utter nonsense.
    I hope you're not in some way affiliated to that site. I can't imagine how a neutral observer would see "some truth" in "this explains the spooky action at a distance between the Earth and the Moon and why the tidal cycles exist. It is the attractorepulsive force of the Earth’s macroelectron core on the macrohydroxygyre core of the Moon."

    Enough said. If you have some questions concerning actual science, feel free to ask.
  11. Sep 23, 2010 #10
    Nothing to figure out. When someone starts proclaiming they're god it usually implies a psychotic episode.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2010
  12. Sep 23, 2010 #11
    Thanks for clearing that up. Didn't see the other posts on the site that, um, are suspicious.
  13. Sep 24, 2010 #12
    Recent findings indicate that water plays a "crucial" role in star and planetary system formation.


    Our own solar system, from the earth orbit outwards, has a considerable amount of water-bearing objects, our own planet and moon, Mars, asteroid belt objects like the dwarf planet Ceres, moons and rings of the gas giants, and probably all the gas giants themselves, Kuiper belt objects including dwarf planets Pluto and Charon, and the Oort Cloud, and all the cometary objects that entertain earthly observers, from known period and sporadic comets and their dust trails that result in meteor showers, and the mostly unobserved "small comets" that could be depositing an estimated 300 million tons of water (as well as some carbon-containing compounds) into the earth's atmosphere annually, in addition to the few tens of thousand tons of dry meteoric dust that falls to earth on regular annual and multidecadal patterns. None of these infalls play a part in climate models, incidentally.

  14. Sep 25, 2010 #13
    The Small Comets idea requires a flux 10,000 times higher than the comet/space-dust flux measured by other means. Thus most atmospheric and planetary scientists think it's highly unlikely and this seems justified scepticism because so far none of the "micro-comets" have been observed by other means. The original observations seem explicable as data errors - probably caused by cosmic-ray hits on the UV detector which was used to image the Earth.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook