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Water Discovered In Remnants Of Extrasolar Rocky World Orbiting White Dwarf

October 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Astrophysicists have found the first evidence of a water-rich rocky planetary body outside our solar system in its shattered remains orbiting a white dwarf.

A new study by scientists at the Universities of Warwick and Cambridge published in the journal Science analysed the dust and debris surrounding the white dwarf star GD61 170 light years away.

Using observations obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope and the large telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory , they found an excess of oxygen – a chemical signature that indicates that the debris had once been part of a bigger body originally composed of 26 per cent water by mass. By contrast, only approximately 0.023 per cent of the Earth’s mass is water.

Evidence for water outside our solar system has previously been found in the atmosphere of gas giants, but this study marks the first time it has been pinpointed in a rocky body, making it of significant interest in our understanding of the formation and evolution of habitable planets and life.

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