Astronomers have found evidence that a distant Earth-like planet may have hosted life hundreds of millions of years ago, before being destroyed in an apocalypse.
The watery remains of a shattered asteroid were discovered 150 light years away from the Earth - the first time that both water and a rocky surface have been found beyond our solar system.
Scientists believe the planet was obliterated after its sun blew up, potentially providing a glimpse into the Earth's distant future.
Professor Boris Gänsicke of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick said:
These two ingredients - a rocky surface and water - are key in the hunt for habitable planets outside our solar system, so it’s very exciting to find them together
What this means is that we have the building blocks of what makes planets like Earth.
The scientists said it was too early to speculate if the region supported alien life, which would have long since departed following the collapse of the sun.
However, they said the discovery could only be explained by a water-rich massive asteroid, or minor planet.
Lead author Jay Farihi, from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, said:
Our results demonstrate that there was definitely potential for habitable planets in this exoplanetary system.
The astronomers made the observations, which were published in the journal Science, using the Hubble Space Telescope and the large Keck telescope on Hawaii.
They said Earth may one day be faced with a similar apocalyptic demise, although not for a few billion years.
– Professor Boris Gänsicke
Six billion years from now an alien astronomer measuring similar abundances in the atmosphere of our burned-out Sun may reach the same conclusion that terrestrial planets once circled our parent star. It’s a look into our future.