Fire and Ice: Sizzling Comets Around a Dying Star NASA

As an alien sun blazes through its death throes, it is apparently vaporizing a surrounding swarm of comets, releasing a huge cloud of water vapor, a team of astronomers reported today. The discovery, reported in an article to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, is the result of observations with the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS), a small radio observatory that NASA launched into space in December 1998. “Over the past two years, SWAS has detected water vapor from a wide variety of astronomical sources,” says Dr. Gary Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Principal Investigator on the SWAS mission. “What makes the results we are reporting today so unusual is that we have found a cloud of water vapor around a star where we would not ordinarily have expected to find water.”