Science, Tech, Math › Science Would a Glass of Water Freeze or Boil in Space? Boiling point of water in a vacuum Share Flipboard Email Print julos / Getty Images Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated September 03, 2019 Here's a question for you to ponder: Would a glass of water freeze or boil in space? On the one hand, you may think space is very cold, well below the freezing point of water. On the other hand, space is a vacuum, so you would expect the low pressure would cause the water to boil into vapor. Which happens first? What is the boiling point of water in a vacuum, anyway? Key Takeaways: Would Water Boil or Freeze in Space? Water immediately boils in space or any vacuum.Space does not have a temperature because temperature is a measure of molecule movement. The temperature of a glass of water in space would depend on whether or not it was in sunlight, in contact with another object, or floating freely in darkness.After water vaporizes in a vacuum, the vapor could condense into ice or it could remain a gas.Other liquid, such as blood and urine, immediately boil and vaporize in a vacuum. Urinating in Space As it turns out, the answer to this question is known. When astronauts urinate in space and release the contents, the urine rapidly boils into vapor, which immediately desublimates or crystallizes directly from the gas to solid phase into tiny urine crystals. Urine isn't completely water, but you'd expect the same process to occur with a glass of water as with astronaut waste. How It Works Space isn't actually cold because the temperature is a measure of the movement of molecules. If you don't have matter, as in a vacuum, you don't have temperature. The heat imparted to the glass of water would depend on whether it was in sunlight, in contact with another surface or out on its own in the dark. In deep space, the temperature of an object would be around -460°F or 3K, which is extremely cold. On the other hand, polished aluminum in full sunlight has been known to reach 850°F. That's quite a temperature difference! However, it doesn't matter much when the pressure is nearly a vacuum. Think about water on Earth. Water boils more readily on a mountaintop than at sea level. In fact, you could drink a cup of boiling water on some mountains and not get burned! In the lab, you can make water boil at room temperature simply by applying a partial vacuum to it. That's what you would expect to happen in space. See Water Boil at Room Temperature While it's impractical to visit space to see the water boil, you can see the effect without leaving the comfort of your home or classroom. All you need is a syringe and water. You can get a syringe at any pharmacy (no needle necessary) or many labs have them, too. Suck a small amount of water into the syringe. You just need enough to see it -- don't fill the syringe all the way.Put your finger over the opening of the syringe to seal it. If you're worried about hurting your finger, you can cover the opening with a piece of plastic.While watching the water, pull back on the syringe as quickly as you can. Did you see the water boil? Boiling Point of Water in a Vacuum Even space isn't an absolute vacuum, although it's pretty close. This chart shows boiling points (temperatures) of water at different vacuum levels. The first value is for sea level and then at decreasing pressure levels. Temperature °F Temperature °C Pressure (PSIA) 212 100 14.696 122 50 1.788 32 0 0.088 -60 -51.11 0.00049 -90 -67.78 0.00005 Boiling Points of Water at Different Vacuum Levels Boiling Point and Mapping The effect of air pressure on boiling has been known and used to measure elevation. In 1774, William Roy used barometric pressure to determine elevation. His measurements were accurate to within one meter. In the mid-19th century, explorers used the boiling point of water to gauge elevation for mapping. Sources Berberan-Santos, M. N.; Bodunov, E. N.; Pogliani, L. (1997). "On the barometric formula." American Journal of Physics. 65 (5): 404–412. doi:10.1119/1.18555Hewitt, Rachel. Map of a Nation – a Biography of the Ordnance Survey. ISBN 1-84708-098-7. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Would a Glass of Water Freeze or Boil in Space?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/glass-water-freeze-boil-in-space-607884. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Would a Glass of Water Freeze or Boil in Space? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/glass-water-freeze-boil-in-space-607884 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Would a Glass of Water Freeze or Boil in Space?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/glass-water-freeze-boil-in-space-607884 (accessed February 28, 2021). copy citation The History of the Thermometer How to Boil Water at Room Temperature Without Heating It Science Magic Tricks Learn About STP in Chemistry What Is the Boiling Point of Milk? What Is the Boiling Point of Water? Why Adding Salt to Water Increases the Boiling Point What Are the Bubbles in Boiling Water? Definition of Boiling Point in Chemistry How Cold Is Liquid Nitrogen? How to Make Instant Snow From Boiling Water Does Adding Salt Lower the Boiling Point of Water? Leidenfrost Effect Demonstrations How to Convert Fahrenheit to Celsius How Salt Melts Ice and Prevents Freezing Can You Remove Fluoride By Boiling Water?