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Space Science

Multiple Asteroid Belts Found Orbiting Nearby Star 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-word-on-asteroid-suspenders dept.
Kligat writes "Scientists have found two asteroid belts around the star Epsilon Eridani, the ninth closest star to our solar system. Epsilon Eridani also possesses an icy outer ring similar in composition to our Kuiper Belt, but with 100 times more material, and a Jovian mass planet near the edge of the innermost belt. Researchers believe that two other planets must orbit the 850 million year old star near the other two belts. Terrestrial planets are possible, but not yet indicated."
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Multiple Asteroid Belts Found Orbiting Nearby Star

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  • mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {sutigid_kl}> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @08:26PM (#25549477) Homepage
    He's right, it'd have to be at least 851 million years old.

    All kidding aside, it's very hard to try to figure out just how long it would take to come up with life (almost as we know it) under circumstances even marginally different than our own. That said, the Vulcan are very similar to us because humanoids originate from the same planet. For more on this, see TNG episode 6x20.
  • by Hottie Parms (1364385) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @08:26PM (#25549479)
    This star (rather, a fictional planet orbiting it) is a central feature in a very good series of books by Alastair Reynolds. I suggest people take a look at the Revelation Space series (although the first book is a bit dry, his writing matures quite nicely through the series.)

    Sorry, I'm re-reading the series now, and this just jumped out at me. Word association = yay.
  • by symbolset (646467) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:09PM (#25549821) Journal
    Research into ion engines is humming right along.
  • Babylon 5 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:45PM (#25550069) Journal

    While talking about Sci-Fi, it might be worth noting that this system is the home of Babylon 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_III [wikipedia.org]

  • The place to put the colony is in the inner asteroid belt. Earthlike planets if any would be just a bonus. Based on what little we already know about the system, it's an obvious place to go.
    Maybe just robots and nanites at first.

    I wish I'd kept a copy of when I submitted this story earlier today, although the posted version is as good as mine.

    see previous slashdot stories
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/18/1359214 [slashdot.org] Interstellar Ark
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/11/214248 [slashdot.org] Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet (re 40 eridani, not epsilon eridani)

  • Re:mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @11:24PM (#25550703) Homepage

    that's the one where they find bits and pieces of code hidden in the DNA of various lifeforms on different planets, right?

    does that mean that humans didn't actually evolve naturally, but instead were the result of genetic engineering (intelligent design)? if so, that was a dumb plot line. i mean, don't various humanoid civilizations in the Star Trek universe have vastly different ages? i know humanity isn't 851 million years old, not even by the 24th century. besides, there was also that episode where the Enterprise crew started to de-evolve, showing that all the different species evolved from more primitive non-humanoid lifeforms.

    personally, i think that it's very likely that the humanoid body plan could evolve multiple times independently on different planets. even though evolution is driven by chance mutations, the evolutionary paths that life takes are not completely random. there are still certain physical attributes and biological designs that life inevitably evolves into. these are dictated by natural laws such as physics & chemistry.

    for instance, the eye has evolves independently multiple times on earth. and it's no coincidence that most walking animals are quadrupeds, or that most species have an even number of limbs. having eyes near the top an organism provides an optimal field of vision. having fully articulated digits and an opposable thumb allows an organism to interact with its environment and manipulate objects and develop/use tools. vocal chords allow for verbal communication and more complex social interaction, therefore may also facilitate the development of advanced cultures. these rules hold true for life on any planet.

    and although sexual selection may create arbitrary biological characteristics, the general humanoid body design probably isn't completely arbitrary. so even though there may be alien lifeforms that are drastically different from us, it's also possible that there humanoid species out there that evolved independently from us.

  • by Nebulo (29412) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @12:31AM (#25551065)

    A co-worker and I were discussing this story today. He had a very poor education growing up and I had to explain a great deal for him to really 'get' what's going on at Epsilon Eridani.

    Can anyone recommend a good basic astronomy/cosmology book that I can give him to bring him somewhat up to speed? For reference, I had to explain that all the stars in the sky are just like our sun; that's his level of understanding. He's very smart and motivated to learn, but has very little background in science.

    Thanks!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:58AM (#25555195)

    Any intersteller travel is idiotic at this point in our technology.

    Due to how slow our probes travel, in all likelyhood, we'd get to the nearest star system much faster if we waited 50-100 years and then built a probe with some currently unavailable supertech with a higher velocity.

    For example, Voyager 1 is currently our fastest object, at 17 km/second. Lets say we can increase that to 1700km/second with a dedicated intersteller probe. Alpha Centauri is about 3.78 × 10^13 KM away. That's still a 700 year travel time.

    In 50 years, if we could make a probe that went 8% faster, we'd get there sooner.

    In 100 years, if we could make a probe that went 17% faster, we'd get there sooner.

    With the distances and time involved, any modern intersteller probe launched is, quite likely, going to only be useful as an example of early 21st century technology centuries or millenium down the road.

  • by Markvs (17298) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @11:01AM (#25555227) Journal
    True, you probably won't be able to keep the engine going, but you certainly don't want to build up speed in the inner solar system. Odds are you want to slingshot around Venus (or maybe Sol), gain speed, and then slingshot again around Jupiter or Saturn, and THEN light the main engine. It's all about conservation of fuel and getting the biggest bang for the buck. It really doesn't matter if you're using nuclear pulse, ion or any other engine technology humanity might invent any time soon.

    IMO, what's more interesting is dealing with the Oort cloud. It's about 50,000 AU out (1 AU = distance Earth to Sol), and that's quite a long way, given that Neptune is 30 AU. For a little perspective, Voyager 2's been moving at ~3.3 AU/year since 1977 and is 86 AU out. This star is 632,396 AU away.

    Anyway, the Oort cloud may well be like the Alps were to Bronze Age man: impassible except in certain locations and conditions.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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