May 06, 2017 04:04 AM EDT
Epsilon Eridani is an exciting, nearby star that is situated 10 light years away from the sun. Although it is like the sun, it is only one-fifth the age of the sun. However, it can shed a lot of light on the development of the solar system.
The nearby star was captured in an interesting shot by NASA's SOFIA aircraft. This was a 747 that was loaded with a 2.5-meter telescope. It made a massive U-turn over the Pacific, just west of Mexico. The historic flight happened on Jan. 28, 2015. It was a Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy aircraft that had just started the second half of its overnight mission.
Steering north for a flight towards western Oregon, the aircraft then headed back towards NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. Just on their way, the pilots aimed their telescope at a nearby star. A team of Iowa State University's Massimo Marengo, as well as other astronomers, were also on the flight. They checked out the flight and gathered infrared information related to the star, according to Perfscience.
The Iowa State associate professor of physics and astronomy, Marengo, worked with his team of astronomers. He has been looking at the nearby star and its planetary system right from 2004. The team wrote a 2009 scientific paper in which they used information from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and explained the star's disk of fine dust and debris from the formation of planets and collisions of asteroids and comets. The disk was found to have distinct belts of asteroids. They were like the asteroid and Kuiper belts of the solar system, according to Iowa State University.
Publishing their findings related to the nearby star in The Astronomical Journal, scientists said that there are separate inner and outer disk structures. More explanation is needed to confirm whether the inner disk includes one or two debris belts.
Epsilon Eridani, the nearby star, seemed to be an interesting model of the early days of our solar system. "This star hosts a planetary system currently undergoing the same cataclysmic processes that happened to the solar system in its youth, at the time in which 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," Marengo wrote.
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