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Astronomers spot birth of Earth-like planet

Posted on Monday, October 08 2007 @ 06:05:56 CEST by

Scientists claim they've found a solar system where a young Earth-like planet is forming out of a warm belt of dust:
The star is part of a binary system known as HD 113766 that lies 424 light-years away.

Although it is slightly more massive than our sun, the star is only about 16 million years old—a baby compared to our 4.6-billion-year-old solar system.

And this young star seems to be in the early stages of forming its own rocky planets, a new study suggests.

The star system HD 113766 stands out clearly when looked at in infrared light, the part of the spectrum where dust shows up best.

Based on infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers say that the dust seems to be collected in a ring around the star within its "habitable zone," the region where water can stay liquid (see images from Spitzer).

Although the researchers can't see if any larger rocks have taken shape inside the dust, the abundance of material suggests that there's enough to form at least a Mars-size planet—or perhaps an Earth-size one.

"You've got all the right kinds of stuff—the age, the mass, the right location," said Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
More info at National Geographic.



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