A quasar is a powerful, old celestial object which feeds on a black hole, an object in space so dense that its escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.
This water body is some 12 billion light years from the earth. One light year is equal to about six trillion miles.
It already existed when our planet Earth was 1.6 billion years old, young by celestial standards.
This volume of water in vapour form is estimated to be at least 100,000 times the mass of the sun, or 34 billion times the mass of the earth.
“We not only detected water in the farthest reaches of the universe, but enough to fill Earth’s oceans more than 100 trillion times,” said University of Colorado-Boulder associate professor Jason Glenn, study co-author.
The quasar’s power comes from matter spiralling into the central supermassive black hole, estimated at some 20 billion times the mass of our sun, said study leader Matt Bradford of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
The water measurement, together with measurements of other molecules in the vapour source, suggests there is enough gas present for the black hole to grow to about six times its already massive size, said Bradford.