At the ends of the Universe, 12.8 billion light-years away, are two ancient galaxies that are so close to each other that scientists consider them a “galactic pair” and have given them the common code name SPT0311-58.
Astronomers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have used the ALMA telescope array in the Chilean Atacama Desert to find traces of water in one of the pair’s two largest galaxies. If the discovery is confirmed, it will be the farthest point in the Universe where we have identified the presence of the precious and absolutely necessary for the existence of life (at least as we know it) water. The galaxy in which the water was located was formed when the Universe was only 780 million years old, that is, it was in cosmic terms still in infancy.
The presence of water in this galaxy means that the most complex chemical and molecular processes had begun in the Universe much earlier than scientists estimated. The existence of water at that time also indicates that the first stars created lived and disappeared within the first 800 million years of the Universe, thus “sowing” new chemical elements and molecules in an environment that was originally dominated by sun and hydrogen. This enrichment has led to the impressive and complex Universe we know today with the countless and different types of galaxies, stars, planets and all other cosmic objects.