Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests.
Artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star. Similar objects in the Solar System likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets.
Image copyright Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick
Published by the Royal Astronomical Society and led by the University of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.
The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life.
Commenting on the findings lead researcher Dr Roberto Raddi, of the University of Warwick's Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, said:
"Our research has found that, rather than being unique, water-rich asteroids similar to those found in our Solar System appear to be frequent. Accordingly, many of planets may have contained a volume of water, comparable to that contained in the Earth.
"It is believed that the Earth was initially dry, but our research strongly supports the view that the oceans we have today were created as a result of impacts by water-rich comets or asteroids".
In observations obtained at the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, the University of Warwick astronomers detected a large quantity of hydrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf (known as SDSS J1242+5226). The quantities found provide the evidence that a water-rich exo-asteroid was disrupted and eventually delivered the water it contained onto the star.
The asteroid, the researchers discovered, was comparable in size to Ceres - at 900km across, the largest asteroid in the Solar System. "The amount of water found SDSS J1242+5226 is equivalent to 30-35% of the oceans on Earth", explained Dr Raddi.
The impact of water-rich asteroids or comets onto a planet or white dwarf results in the mixing of hydrogen and oxygen into the atmosphere. Both elements were detected in large amounts in SDSS J1242+5226.
Research co-author Professor Boris Gänsicke, also of University of Warwick, explained:
"Oxygen, which is a relatively heavy element, will sink deep down over time, and hence a while after the disruption event is over, it will no longer be visible.
"In contrast, hydrogen is the lightest element; it will always remain floating near the surface of the white dwarf where it can easily be detected. There are many white dwarfs that hold large amounts of hydrogen in their atmospheres, and this new study suggests that this is evidence that water-rich asteroids or comets are common around other stars than the Sun".
The research, Likely detection of water-rich asteroid debris in a metal-polluted white dwarf, is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by Oxford University Press.
Notes for Editors:
A high res illustration can be found here: http://www2.
For which the caption is "Artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star. Similar objects in the Solar System likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets. Image copyright Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick".
The research was carried out at the UK William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands.
A copy of the paper can be found here after the embargo is up: http://mnras.
Professor Boris Gänsicke from the University of Warwick is available for interview on +44 (0)2476574741 or email Boris.Gaensicke@warwick.ac.uk
Or for further information please contact:
Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Policy University of Warwick
Tel UK: 024 76523708 office 07767 655860 mobile Tel
Overseas: +44 (0)24 76523708 office +44 (0)7767 655860
Boris Gaensicke | EurekAlert!
Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark
Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering