Astronomers at the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to discover the first exoplanet that meets all the criteria for being capable of forming life according to their report in the Oct. 10, 2013, issue of the journal Science.
An asteroid orbiting the star GD 61 located about 150 million light years from Earth has both water and a rocky surface. Water and a rocky surface are considered by astronomers and biologists as being the two essential qualities that a planet or planetary body must have to be able to produce life as we understand it from an Earth point of view.
The asteroid is 26 percent water by mass. Spectrographic analysis of the asteroid indicated a composition of magnesium, silicon, iron, and the oxides of these metals. This composition is very similar to Earth rocks. No carbon content was found in the asteroid water or in the rock making up the asteroid.
The existence of an asteroid with water on it indicates that the building blocks of planets still exist in parts of the universe. The presently accepted concept of planet creation involves the accumulation of asteroids into a large body that becomes a planet.
The water found on the asteroid most probably originated from a planet that orbited GD 61 before the star became a white dwarf about 200 million years ago. The planet was crushed by the extreme gravity of GD 61 as a white dwarf but the asteroid with water remained.
The asteroid orbiting GD 61 is the first exoplanetary body that has all the necessities to form life found to date.