Nearby Solar System Looks Familiar

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2008 6:45 PM CDT
The Hubble Space Telescope.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A nearby solar system looks a lot like ours, complete with newly identified asteroid belts, gas giants, and a similarly sized sun, reports. The star at the center of the system is visible without magnification, and scientists say they can infer the presence of planets in a zone whose conditions would be hospitable to life. "This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," a researcher tells McClatchy.

The star is one-fifth the age of our sun and emits less light. “Studying Epsilon Eridani is like having a time machine to look at our solar system when it was young,” another astronomer said. Researchers knew about a distant ice cloud orbiting Epsilon Eridani—better known as the center of Mr. Spock's home solar system—before advanced observation technology on the orbiting Spitzer space telescope revealed the two inner asteroid belts.