The existence of water in extrasolar planetary systems is of great interest as it constrains the potential for habitable planets and life. Here, we report the identification of a circumstellar disk that resulted from the destruction of a water-rich and rocky, extrasolar minor planet. The parent body formed and evolved around a star somewhat more massive than the Sun, and the debris now closely orbits the white dwarf remnant of the star. The stellar atmosphere is polluted with metals accreted from the disk, including oxygen in excess of that expected for oxide minerals, indicating the parent body was originally composed of 26% water by mass. This finding demonstrates that water-bearing planetesimals exist around A- and F-type stars that end their lives as white dwarfs.
Date added: Tue, 15 Oct 13