A new star system has been discovered 10.5 light-years away from Earth. That’s just a short hop in the cosmic neighborhood. NASA found this solar system in the constellation Eridanus, which is why they named it Epsilon Eridani. The star seems very similar to a slightly younger version of our Sun. Also, the planets forming around it appear to have some local similarities as well.
Nearby Planetary System Looks Like Us
Scientists discovered a gas giant about the size of Jupiter’s mass orbiting at nearly the same distance. The accretion disk of the system was reduced to an asteroid belt similar to our own, just inside the gas giant’s orbit. They even found an outer debris field much like our Kuiper Belt.
Although Eri is only about 20% of the age of our sun, there are many resemblances. Scientists hope to use it as a model of how our system might have formed. One part of that model attempts to explain why gaps exist between the belts of debris. At least rather than there simply being an accretion disk, common around most young stars.
Scientists believe those spaces are created by rocky planets, which orbit the stars, collecting the debris with their gravity. While evidence of this has not yet been discovered at Eri, there is hope to find them as well as gas giants in this nearby planetary system.
“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,” said Massimo Marengo.
He is one of the co-authors of a paper on this new planetary system, released in The Astronomical Journal.
The next generation of NASA’s star gazing equipment may be able to provide that necessary data. The James Webb telescope, set to be launched in October 2018, will almost certainly be sensitive to it. It may help tell if the system’s inner planets are like ours, too.