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Another Earth Being Born 430 Light Years Away

Posted by air_lifter Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Astrophysicists analyzing infrared images captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope found indications of a dust cloud surrounding a relatively young star. The star is 10 to 16 million years old, and analysis of the dust cloud suggests that it may coalesce and become a rocky planet like earth. It is located at a distance from the star that it may build an atmosphere, collect liquid water, and perhaps, in millions and millions of years, support life.

It took billions of years and the perfect conditions for our Earth to grow and form. Now, those same conditions can be seen in space, shaping a similar planet. Ivanhoe explains this exciting space discovery.
Far, far away, something amazing is brewing in space. Swirling around a giant star similar to our sun, astrophysicists have spotted the very early stages of a planet taking shape. "What we think we're seeing is the actual formation of a planet -- terrestrial planet -- a rocky planet like the Earth, around the star," Carey Lisse, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., told Ivanhoe.

The Earth-like planet is about 430 light years away or 2.5x1015 miles from Earth. It's inside a huge dust belt -- bigger than our asteroid belt -- with enough dusty material to build a planet. "The material is forming at just the same distance, or close to the same distance where the Earth formed from the sun," Dr. Lisse says.

To find the planet, astronomers used images captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope. It looks for infrared light or heat radiating from the dusty materials. The images also confirm the rocky fragments forming the new planet are similar to materials found in the Earth's crust and core. "So, the body that's going to form -- the planet that's going to form -- isn't going to be this gas giant with incredibly thick atmosphere," explains Dr. Lisse. It's going to be a rocky planet like Mars or Venus or the Earth."

There's also an outer ice belt circling the young planet, making it more likely that water could reach the new planet's surface … and maybe even life; but don't wait around for signs of life. The planet still needs another 100 million years before it's completely formed.

Astronomers say the star the new planet is spinning around is between ten and 16 million years old, which is the perfect age for forming Earth-like planets.


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