Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Epsilon - planets are too far away to be detected directly

For the first time, astronomers think that they've found evidence of an alien solar system around a star close enough to Earth to be visible to the naked eye.

NVDL: It is fascinating that this 'nearby' star has planets that we are, as yet, unable to see, because our instruments aren't strong enough. Imagine that - planets in space (and a planet is a pretty big thing) too far away to even see.
clipped from news.yahoo.com

They say that at least one and probably three or more planets are orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, 10.5 light-years — about 63 trillion miles — from Earth. Only eight stars are closer.

Epsilon Eridani is much younger than the sun, about 850 million years old compared with 4.5 billion years for our system.

"This really is a system like our solar system was when it was five times younger than it is now," said one of the discoverers, Massimo Marengo , an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "It's like a time machine for our solar system."

The suspected planets are too far away to be detected directly, so their presence has to be inferred by indirect measurements. Their star is so near, however, that some astronomers think that they may be able to see its planets with better telescopes within the next decade.

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