Astronomers report what could be the first evidence of water-bearing objects that orbit a star other than our sun. Since water is an essential ingredient for life, this finding could increase the odds that life exists outside the solar system.
The researchers detected a surprisingly high abundance of water vapor in the vicinity of a bloated, elderly star called CW Leonis. The composition of the star strongly suggests that the vapor does not come from CW Leonis itself, says Gary J. Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The star contains much more carbon than oxygen, and the carbon would grab any available oxygen atoms to form carbon monoxide. That would leave little oxygen to combine with hydrogen to form water, he notes.