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Astronomers Find Familiar-Looking Star Nearby That’s a Good Model of Our Early Solar System

May 03, 2017 10:27 AM EDT
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Epsilon Eridani
This artist's diagram compares the Epsilon Eridani system to our own solar system.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech )

What if there's a mirror of the solar system somewhere out there? Astronomers discovered a nearby star -- Epsilon Eridani -- that's shown to be a good model of the early life of the solar system, which could potentially lead to more knowledge about the origins and evolution of the Sun and its planets.

"This star hosts a planetary system currently undergoing the same cataclysmic processes that happened to the solar system in its youth, at the time in which the moon gained most of its craters, Earth acquired the water in its oceans, and the conditions favorable for life on our planet were set," Iowa State University's Massimo Marengo explained in a statement.

According to a report from UPI, Epsilon Eridani is located 10 light-years from Earth. While it's very similar to the Sun, the star is quite young, only one-fifth of the Sun's age.

Marengo and a team of astronomers have been studying Epsilon Eridani and its planetary system since 2004. After all those years, the new study used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the SOFIA aircraft to confirm the presence of separate inner and outer disk structures.

More studies are necessary to find out if there are debris belts in the inner disk. The gap between the star's belts is likely created by planets, according to Marengo. Although it hasn't been detected, the university professor said that it would be more surprising if the planets aren't there.

"The prize at the end of this road is to understand the true structure of epsilon Eridani's out-of-this-world disk, and its interactions with the cohort of planets likely inhabiting its system," Marengo wrote in a blog entry. "SOFIA, by its unique ability of capturing infrared light in the dry stratospheric sky, is the closest we have to a time machine, revealing a glimpse of Earth's ancient past by observing the present of a nearby young sun."

The findings of the study were published in the Astronomical Journal.

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