News / Science & Technology

    Water Discovered in Extrasolar, Rocky World

    This is an artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star GD 61. (NASA, ESA, M.A. Garlick (space-art.co.uk), University of Warwick, and University of Cambridge)
    This is an artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star GD 61. (NASA, ESA, M.A. Garlick (space-art.co.uk), University of Warwick, and University of Cambridge)

    Related Articles

    Astronomers Discover Lone Planet with No Star

    Planet has a mass six times that of Jupiter and is only 12 million years old

    'Super Earth' Exoplanet May Have Water Atmosphere

    Planet, detected by Japanese astronomers, is located 40 light years from Earth in constellation Ophiuchus

    Journal: Life on Earth Will End in 1.75 to 3.25 Billion Years

    British researchers looked at planets outside our solar system to come up with estimate of how long Earth will be habitable
    VOA News
    Water has been discovered for the first time on a piece of rocky debris 150 light years away from Earth.

    The debris, which is orbiting the white dwarf GD 61, is a relic of a planetary system that survived the burnout of its parent star. Scientists think the system had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets.

    "These water-rich building blocks, and the terrestrial planets they assemble, may in fact be common. A system cannot create things as big as asteroids and avoid building planets, and GD 61 had the ingredients to deliver lots of water to their surfaces," according to Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. "Our results demonstrate that there was definitely potential for habitable planets in this exoplanetary system. The system almost certainly had [and possibly still has] planets, and it had the ingredients to deliver lots of water to their surfaces."

    Using the Hubble Space Telescope, Farihi’s team was able to do a chemical analysis of the debris around GD 61.

    "The only feasible way to see what a distant planet is made of is to take it apart, and nature does this for us using the strong gravitational tidal forces of white dwarf stars," said Farihi. "This technique allows us to look at the chemistry that builds rocky planets, and is a completely independent method from other types of exoplanet observations."

    The white dwarf GD 61 is a relic of a star that once burned hotter and brighter than our Sun. The star exhausted its fuel in just 1.5 billion years. (Our Sun will last roughly ten times as long.)

    NASA's Far Ultraviolet Space Explorer (FUSE) first found an abundance of oxygen in the dwarf's atmosphere in 2008. The only way to obtain a more precise measurement of the amount of oxygen in the debris around GD 61 requires observations in the ultraviolet, which can only be carried out above Earth's atmosphere.

    Combining their results with a previous study that used the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the team also detected magnesium, silicon, and iron, which, together with oxygen, are the main components of rocks. By counting the number of these elements relative to oxygen the researchers were able to predict how much oxygen should be in the atmosphere of the white dwarf. They found significantly more oxygen than should have been carried by rocky minerals alone.

    "The oxygen excess can be carried by either water or carbon mono- or dioxide. In this star there is virtually no carbon, indicating there must have been substantial water," said Boris Gänsicke of the University of Warwick, in Coventry, United Kingdom. He added that the small amount of carbon seen in the white dwarf rules out comets as the source of water. Comets are rich in both water and carbon compounds.

    Earth is essentially a "dry" planet, with only 0.02 percent of its mass as surface water. So oceans came long after it had formed, most likely when water-rich asteroids in the solar system crashed into our planet.

    The new discovery shows that the same water "delivery system" could have occurred in this distant, dying star's solar system — as this latest evidence points to it containing a similar type of water-rich asteroid that would have first brought water to Earth.

    Six billion years from now an alien astronomer measuring similar abundances in the atmosphere of our burned-out Sun may reach the same conclusion that terrestrial planets once circled our parent star. Though  GD 61  was different from our Sun, nevertheless, "it's a look into our future," said Gänsicke.

    The new research findings are reported in the journal Science.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Emmanuel I. Ebube from: Asaba, Nigeria
    October 16, 2013 2:23 AM
    The above article on extrasolar water goes to confirm not only my recent comment on this forum but also what I have written in my books on the the origin of our planet and its lifeforms. I have maintained that the impact of a Mars-sized object from interstellar space, some half a billion years ago, brought with water and organic life-forming matter that was deposited on planet earth on impact. this impact also displaced our planet from its original mathematically predictable orbit into a new orbit. This new orbit, perhaps fortunately, turned out to be favorable to the species of lifeforms that now exist on planet earth. The material that makes existence of living creatures possible came from the far recesses of outer space, as the above article about extrasolar water and G60 suggest. There should also be evidence of extrasolar matter presence on Neptune which suffered similar collision-ejection fate as planet earth..The NASA space craft that just exited the solar system should reveal a lot more fact on this subject. The circumstances surrounding our emergence as the creatures we are is unique and accidental, and the laws of probability should indicate that these conditions could hardly be replicated precisely any where else in the vast universe. The oddity of planet earth is deducible from the failure of earth's orbit to obey the mathematical law that govern the other planetary orbits, except of course Neptune which is also a deviant. More comments to follow

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora