White dwarf star contains the vital elements of life

A scientists team have discovered a white dwarf who has an atmosphere consisting of carbon and nitrogen, with good amounts of oxygen and hydrogen, that are the components of water. This star is located in the constellation Boötes 200 hundred light years away.

The co-author of the research, Benjamin Zuckerman, who is an UCLA professor of astronomy suggest that he has evidence for the white dwarf containing vital elements for life to exist. The study focused on the star WD 1425+540.

“The findings indicate that some of life’s important preconditions are common in the universe,” the professor said.

The study

reported that a minor planet orbited the white dwarf but its orbit was altered by another planet.This resulted in the breaking of the minor planet. The debris from this impact orbited around the star until they fell on it. They had the basic building blocks of life.

One of the researchers, co-author Edward Young, a professor of geochemistry, believes that the impact occured recently. The scientists estimate that the minor planet consisted of 1/3 ices and 2/3 rocky materials.
>The researchers suggest that this planet was part of an analog of a Kuiper belt in that planetary system. For a very long time astronomers wondered if such bodies like the Kuiper belt exist in other planetary systems and this study confirms it for the first time.
The research explained how the WD 1425+540  came to have elements like nitrogen,oxygen,carbon and hydrogen. It was the first white dwarf that had nitrogen in its atmposphere to be discovered and one of the few to be impacted by a minor planet.

The kuiper belt analog

“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,” said Siyi Xu, the lead author, a postdoctoral scholar at the European Southern Observatory in Germany.

“Now we’re seeing in a planetary system outside our solar system that there are minor planets where water, nitrogen and carbon are present in abundance, as in our solar system’s Kuiper belt,” Xu said. “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.”

“If a rocky planet forms very close to its star it would be most likely dry.”- said one of the co-authors.

“We would like to know whether in other planetary systems Kuiper belts exist with large quantities of water that could be added to otherwise dry planets,” he said. “Our research suggests this is likely.”

According to professor Zuckerman, this research does not tell us if the life in universe is common.

“First you need an Earth-like world in its size, mass and at the proper distance from a star like our sun,” he said, adding that astronomers still haven’t found a planet that matches those criteria.

Source : sciencedaily.com