Monday, November 03, 2008

Twin of Solar system Discovered

VIa OWH, astronomers have found evidence of a solar system much like our own, and it is relatively close in galactic terms. The system Epsilon Eridani, just 10.5 light years from Earth and the eighth closest to our sun has been observed to have two rings of rocky asteroids in oribit around it, somewhat like the geography of our solar system, and an icy outer ring consistent with our Kyper Belt. The gaps in the rings are likely spots for planets to lurk, and the inner ring is 3 astronomical units from the star, just as in our solar system.

"Epsilon Eridani is much younger than the sun — about 850 million years old, compared with 4.5 billion years for our system.

"This really is a system like our solar system was when it was five times younger than it is now," said one of the discoverers, Massimo Marengo, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "It's like a time machine for our solar system."

"This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," said Dana Backman of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the lead author of a report to be published Jan. 10 in the Astrophysical Journal.

SETI chose Epsilon Eridani as one of the first targets in its long — but so far fruitless — search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in 1960. The suspected planets are too far away to be detected directly, so their presence has to be inferred by indirect measurements."

At least one and perhaps three or more planets may be in orbit around the star, which is in the constellation Eridanus near Orion. The star is a bit smaller and cooler than our Sun, bringing the star's habitable zone closer to it than our own system. More on the discovery at Livescience here.

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