A white dwarf star in another solar system may be carrying important information about life. It could provide researchers with data about life’s building blocks.
This white dwarf star is located in the Bootes constellation. It is situated some 200 light years away from Earth. White dwarf stars are also known as degenerate dwarfs.
They are believed to be the final evolutionary stage of the space bodies unable to transform into neutron stars. Famous neutron stars include our Sun. And also around 97 percent of the Milky Way’s stars.
This white dwarf star comprises “components of life”. It revealed traces of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon.
Research on the matter was carried out by an international team of scientists. The study was led by Siyi Xu. He is part of the ESO. This is the European Southern Observatory situated in Garching, Germany. Benjamin Zuckerman, part of the University of California, Los Angeles is the study co-author.
This latter released a press statement. In it, he stated as follows. “The study presents evidence that the planetary system associated with the white dwarf contains materials that are the basic building blocks for life.”
Their study focused on just one white dwarf star. This was titled WD 1425+540. Nonetheless, Zuckerman drew attention to the following. “The fact that its planetary system shares characteristics with our solar system strongly suggests that other planetary systems would also.”
Which could also indicate another important fact. “The findings indicate that some of life’s important preconditions are common in the Universe.” To put it more simply, our Milky Way may not be the only system capable of supporting life.
According to a scientific belief, Earth could have initially been dry. Water, nitrogen, and carbon or life’s building blocks, could have emerged sometimes later. Or more exactly, when our planet collided with other celestial bodies. These could have been holding these vital life elements.
The studied white dwarf star may have once had a satellite of its own. This tiny planet may have contained these life elements. A minor trajectory change may have determined a collision between the two.
WD 1425+540’s gravitational pull then shattered the satellite. Which then left behind gas and debris. These then continued orbiting the white dwarf star.
And eventually, spiraled into the space body itself. As such, they helped develop life’s building blocks. According to estimates, these events could have taken place some 100,000 years ago.
Siyi Xu, the aforementioned lead, pointed out the following. “This was the first time that nitrogen was detected in the planetary debris that falls onto a white dwarf.” Nitrogen is one of the most important elements for life.
“This particular object is quite rich in nitrogen, more so than any object observed in our solar system”.
Research results were posted on the official NASA website. Data on the matter was gathered with help from the Hubble Space Telescope. Through it, the scientists observed an unusual event. They were witnesses to the breaking apart of a massive space object.
This had a comet’s makeup and was similar to Halley’s Comet. It was seen to be ripped apart by WD 1425+540. And its remains scattered in the white dwarf star’s atmosphere. This event also points out another element. The white dwarf may be surrounded by a belt of comet-like orbiting space bodies. It may be similar to our Kuiper Belt.
According to the scientists, this is the first body outside of our solar system to reveal a similar composition to Halley’s comet.
“If there is water in Kuiper Belt-like objects around other stars, as there now appears to be, then when rocky planets form, they need not contain life’s ingredients.” This is according to the study lead.
“If Earth obtained its water, nitrogen, and carbon from the impact of such objects, then rocky planets in other planetary systems could also obtain their water, nitrogen, and carbon this way.”
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