Posted by Lydia on October 27th, 2008
Astronomers are excited by the possible discovery of three planets circulating Epsilon Eridani, one of the nine closest stars to us. The findings of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are consistent with the presence of three planets around the star. This newly reported solar system is quite interesting as it resembles our own system as it may have been many years ago. (Our system is nearly five times older than that of Epsilon Eridani.) The similarities of the two systems include the following:
- The Epilson Eridani system holds two rocky asteroid belts and an outer icy ring.
- The inner asteroid belt is is the same distance from its host star as our own ring of asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter and Epsilon Eridanis’s second belt holds the same similarity in its distance as our planet Uranus in our system.
- Epsilon Eridani’s icy ring of circulating objects resembles our Kuiper Belt of mini planets.
One of the three planets, a gas giant, was discovered in 2000 by Barbara McArthur, an astronomer at the University of Texas in Austin – confirmed two years ago by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is hoped that astronomers may have a nice view of this solar system in the years to come with the development of higher powered telescopes.
Dana Backman, of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California is the lead author of the report detailing the discovery which is to be published next year in The Astrophysical Journal.