MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: Will water boil or freeze in outer space?

Date: Mon May 4 09:30:44 1998
Posted By: John Haberman, Space Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Center, Greenbelt MD
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 893798162.As


   Water has been observed both in outer space and on several planets and 
moons.  Earth is the only place, so far, where water is known to exist in 
the liquid phase.  Water vapor has been found essentially everywhere.  It 
is believed (or hypothesized) that solid water (ice) exists on some 
planets and moons.   Much speculation and debate is currently occurring as 
to how much water is really present on some of the planets or moons.

   I believe that your question really is -- If liquid water is suddenly 
put into outer space, will it boil or freeze?  The most correct answer is: 
Both!  If you check the scientific definitions of freezing and of boiling 
you will find that what occurs can be interpreted as both.  The 
observations of the water released from the space shuttle show that it 
both evaporates and freezes and that the resulting ice then quickly 
sublimates (converts directly from the solid to the gas phase).

   You can find helpful information indirectly related to your question 
using, for example, the Search feature on the Spacelink page from the 
Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA Spacelink 

Two good hits can be viewed at:

Boiling process at zero gravity

What happens to the waste water 
that is dumped ...?

John Haberman

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