The planetary system around Epsilon Eridani is similar to our solar system when it was still young.
Read aloud US researchers have discovered a younger twin of our solar system: The only about 10.5 light-years distant planetary system around the still young star Epsilon Eridani seems to be structured exactly as the solar system was in his youth. It has an asteroid belt about the same distance from the parent star as the solar system, which has a ring of rocks between Mars and Jupiter. It also has a wide belt of ice particles that resembles the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. In between, however, Epsilon Eridani is, in contrast to the solar system, circled by another rock formation. The shape and arrangement of the three rings of Epsilon Eridani is probably due to the gravitation of different planets, which have not yet been localized. Epsilon Eridani is the ninth next star from the sun. He is not only younger at an age of about 850 million years, but also a little smaller and cooler than our central star. Epsilon Eridani is visible to the naked eye from Earth, thanks to its short distance of only 10.5 light-years. However, the scientists now use NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope for more detailed exploration. They discovered the three rings surrounding the star: two asteroid belts and an ice ring.

The inner asteroid belt is comparable to that between Mars and Jupiter. Both contain about one twentieth of the mass of the earth's moon and are about three times as far from the sun as the earth. Epsilon Eridani's outer asteroid belt, on the other hand, is about as heavy as the Earth's Moon and twenty times as far from its parent star as the Earth is from the Sun. This is similar to the position of Uranus in our solar system. The third ring is made of icy material and is 35 to 100 times as far from Epsilon Eridani as the Earth is from the sun. This ring resembles the Kuiper belt in our solar system, although it contains about 100 times more material than the Kuiper belt. According to calculations, however, Kuiper belt also contained this mass when the sun was about 850 million years old, and has since lost ground.

The Epsilon Eridani system has so much in common with our solar system, as it is still in its infancy, and it will evolve similarly, researchers suggest. The best explanation for the distances between the three rings is the influence of the gravitational effect of different planets, says study leader Massimo Marengo. There are three planets in question, whose mass lies between that of Neptune and Jupiter. One of them has already been found near the inner asteroid belt. A second planet would have to hide near the second belt and the third would have to be found close to the outer ice ring.

Message from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge ddp / Sonja Römer advertisement


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