Searching for Space Water, with Natalie Starkey (Repeat)

Cassini Flyby Shows Enceladus Venting. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI; Mosaic: Emily Lakdawalla
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About This Episode

Water, water everywhere… and by everywhere, we mean our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe itself. Find out just how abundant water is, when cosmochemist Natalie Starkey hosts StarTalk All-Stars for the first time. She’s joined by co-host Chuck Nice and planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton. Together, they answer your cosmic queries about H2O. Get the scoop on new evidence that suggests most of Earth’s water didn’t come from comets, but rather from the same rocky material that built up our planet. Explore whether a planet is “born wet” or not, and how the formation of a celestial body determines what kind of water it has. Is the water ice on comets salty, fresh, or just “dirty” with minerals and “gloopy” from complex organic hydrocarbons. Would comets and asteroids be more useful providing water for Earth, or as fueling stations for space exploration, providing hydrogen for fuel, oxygen for breathing and water for drinking? Natalie and Lindy look at the status of water here on Earth, from pollution, to scarcity, to the lack of regulations protecting our aquifers. And of course, no discussion about space water would be complete without pondering the possibility of life, whether in the ancient subsurface oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, or on one of the 600 million Earth-like exoplanets scattered throughout the universe. Lindy also shares the story of when she first “made” water in a lab by burning hydrogen, and you’ll hear why, for humans, there’s no man-made alternative to water.

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