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Re: Yahoo! News Story - Evidence found of solar system around nearby star - Yahoo! News

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  • mahtezcatpoc
    ... Evidence found of solar system around nearby star By Robert S. Boyd, McClatchy Newspapers Robert S. Boyd, Mcclatchy Newspapers – Mon Oct 27, 11:01 am ET
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 28, 2008
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      --- In thefixedstars@yahoogroups.com, Mark Holmes <mahtezcatpoc@...>
      > Mark Holmes (mahtezcatpoc@...) has sent you a news article.
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      > Evidence found of solar system around nearby star - Yahoo! News
      > http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20081027/sc_mcclatchy/3082054

      Evidence found of solar system around nearby star

      By Robert S. Boyd, McClatchy Newspapers Robert S. Boyd, Mcclatchy
      Newspapers – Mon Oct 27, 11:01 am ET

      WASHINGTON — For the first time, astronomers think that they've found
      evidence of an alien solar system around a star close enough to Earth
      to be visible to the naked eye.

      They say that at least one and probably three or more planets are
      orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, 10.5 light-years — about 63
      trillion miles — from Earth. Only eight stars are closer.

      The host star, slightly smaller and cooler than our sun, is in the
      constellation Eridanus — the name of a mythological river — near Orion
      in the northern sky.

      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 vain — search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in

      The suspected planets are too far away to be detected directly, so
      their presence has to be inferred by indirect measurements. Their star
      is so near, however, that some astronomers think that they may be able
      to see its planets with better telescopes within the next decade.

      One of the planets, a gas giant 1 { times heavier than Jupiter, was
      discovered in 2000 by Barbara McArthur , an astronomer at the
      University of Texas in Austin . She measured the slight wobble in the
      star's position as the planet swung around it. Further observations by
      the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 confirmed its existence, McArthur
      said at the time.

      Now Backman's team has deduced the presence of at least two more
      planets, after space- and ground-based telescopes separately revealed
      two belts of rocky asteroids and an outer icy ring circling Epsilon

      The inner asteroid belt is about 280 million miles from its host star,
      the same distance as our own ring of asteroids orbiting between Mars
      and Jupiter. The second belt is about the same distance as Uranus is
      in our system.

      Finally, a wide, third ring of icy objects extends billions of miles
      beyond Epsilon Eridani, resembling the so-called Kuiper Belt of
      mini-planets outside Pluto.

      In 2002, Alice Quillen , an astronomer at the University of Rochester
      in New York state , reported that unusual clumps of material in the
      outer ring probably indicated the presence of a Saturn -size planet in
      a Pluto-like orbit. Her finding hasn't been confirmed, but "I still
      think there is a planet out there of this size," Quillen said in an

      According to Marengo, the gaps between these belts were created when
      clouds of dust and rocks consolidated into planets, as happened in the
      early days of our solar system. He likened the process to the
      formation of Saturn's famous rings, which are separated by spaces
      cleared out by little moons.

      "The easiest way to explain the gaps is to say there are planets
      there," Marengo said. "It's the same way as the rings of Saturn are
      kept stable by the moons of Saturn ."

      "I think these rings are probably telling us about how systems clear
      out after planets have formed," Quillen said. "It's pretty exciting to
      catch such a nearby system in this critical stage."

      Marengo raised the possibility that more Earthlike planets might exist
      in the space between Epsilon Eridani and the inner dust ring.

      "The inside belt is cleared, like in our solar system," he said.
      "There could be terrestrial planets inside, but we can't detect them
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