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Study: Life-Sustaining Planets May Exist Beyond Our Solar System

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The planet Venus appears close to the crescent Moon as Jupiter (R) appears nearby during a rare planetary alignment on December 1, 2008.  (credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The planet Venus appears close to the crescent Moon as Jupiter (R) appears nearby during a rare planetary alignment on December 1, 2008. (credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – Scientist say planets in a solar system over 100 light years from Earth may be able to sustain life.

Researchers say they noticed a single asteroid that contains a lot of water. They say this is similar to the asteroid that may have brought water to Earth when it was first being formed.

This is the first time such an asteroid has been detected outside our solar system.

“Asteroids are the Legos that go into our planets,” Jay Farihi, the study’s lead author, told the Verge.”

Farihi and his team say the chances life can be sustained in that solar system is slim. That system’s sun, GD 61, is a white dwarf. A white dwarf is a burning out star in its final throes of life.

Farihi said it was due to the white dwarf that they were able to spot the asteroid. “Unlike regular stars like our sun, white dwarfs act like white pieces of paper,” Farihi went on to say to the magazine. “If any rocks or material other than hydrogen or helium falls onto them, we can see that very clearly.”

The team of researchers analyzed the white dwarf using data from a spectrograph onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. A white dwarf should only have hydrogen and helium on its surface. Because of that, the oxygen was able to stand out and they noticed it.

“I think it’s really awesome that we found the signs of planet pieces that can be building habitable environments and environments for life,” Farihi said. “The real hardcore science comes from putting those objects into context.”

Farihi was not able to determine if life did exist in that solar system at one point or not. “This star definitely has planets, it has asteroids. We don’t know anything beyond that, but we do know it had all of the ingredients.”

The study was published in Science.

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