Water on white dwarf raises prospects of H2O-rich planets

accreditation
(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Paris - Large amounts of water may exist on numerous deep space bodies, said a study on Thursday that raises the theoretical odds of another planet like Earth sporting the life-giving resource.

The findings, published by the Royal Astronomical Society, are based on the discovery of "a large quantity" of hydrogen and oxygen, the two chemical ingredients of water, in the atmosphere of a white dwarf star.

The find, based on observations by the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, revealed that the quantity of water found on Earth is not unique, said a statement by Britain's University of Warwick, whose astronomers made the discovery.

"Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth," it said.

"The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies (as asteroids and comets) to create a suitable environment for the formation of life."

The latest findings support the widely-held view that Earth's oceans were created through impacts by water-rich comets or asteroids, said lead researcher Roberto Raddi.

The white dwarf, an ageing star in decline, had once held water equivalent to about 30-35% of that found in Earth's oceans, probably delivered in an asteroid impact.

"Our research has found that, rather than being unique, water-rich asteroids similar to those found in our solar system appear to be frequent," said Raddi.

His colleague Boris Gansicke added: "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."

Last December, researchers said readings taken Europe's comet orbiter Rosetta suggested that water on Earth was more likely to have come from asteroids that slammed into the planet billions of years ago, than from comets.

The atomic signature of water molecules from the comet were vastly different from water on Earth.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Do you think South Africa needs tighter restrictions to combat the third wave?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, the situation is grim and needs serious measures
25% - 233 votes
No, we cannot afford more lockdowns
37% - 353 votes
Yes, but only in provinces where it is out of control
38% - 357 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.29
-0.4%
Rand - Pound
19.85
-0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.00
-0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.73
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.1%
Gold
1,778.73
-0.2%
Silver
25.81
-0.5%
Palladium
2,592.00
+0.4%
Platinum
1,057.49
+0.1%
Brent Crude
74.90
+1.9%
Top 40
59,508
+0.1%
All Share
65,724
+0.2%
Resource 10
61,616
+0.8%
Industrial 25
87,367
-0.7%
Financial 15
13,045
+1.4%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo