NASA astronomers have just discovered a solar system remarkably similar to our own – on our doorstep.
The solar system was found a mere ten light-years away in the constellation Eradinus, and is centred around the youthful star Epsilon Eridani, reports the Independent.
The discovery has massive implications for the study of our own solar system and could give scientists an insight into how our gravitationally bound planetary neighbours came to form.
Epsilon Eridani has very similar properties to our own Sun, but it’s only about one fifth of the age; so examination of Epsilon Eridani is a bit like looking back in time at the ancient past of our solar system.
Massimo Marengo, one of the authors of the new paper, wrote:
This star hosts a planetary system currently undergoing the same cataclysmic processes that happened to the solar system in its youth.
[Around] the time the moon gained most of its craters, Earth acquired the water in its oceans, and the conditions favorable for life on our planet were set.
The paper Marengo co-authored uses a data set of pictures captured by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (named SOFIA), a powerful infrared photo tool housed in a NASA aircraft.
Marengo hailed SOFIA for its unique ability of capturing infrared light in the dry stratospheric sky, adding: “It’s the closest we have to a time machine… by observing the present of a nearby young sun.”
This paper promises to be the first step in discovering our own solar system’s ancient past. Exciting stuff.