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Space Science

Nearby Solar System Looks Like Home 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the mirror-image dept.
sciencehabit writes "Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star just 21 light-years from Earth that boasts a number of planets. Now astronomers are reporting another feature that earthlings would find familiar: a ring of dust far from the star which resembles the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, a zone of objects, each much smaller than Earth, that lies beyond Neptune's orbit and includes Pluto. The newfound debris disk is about as large as the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, even though Gliese 581 is small and all of its known planets lie closer to their sun than Earth does to ours. The scientists speculate that the little red star harbors a more remote planet whose gravity stirs up the belt's small objects, causing them to collide and spew the dust that Herschel has discerned."
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Nearby Solar System Looks Like Home

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @06:22AM (#42213963)

    The scientists speculate that the little red star harbors a more remote planet whose gravity stirs up the belt's small objects, causing them to collide and spew the dust that Herschel has discerned.

    This seems plausible if the frost line [wikipedia.org] hypothesis is correct. In that case you would always expect to have gas giants stirring up matter on the edge of a solar system. The problem is that many gas giants have been found very close to stars and inside the frost line (the Hot Jupiters [wikipedia.org]). Until there is a good explanation for the Hot Jupiters, I don't think we can just blindly expect to find gas giants beyond the frost lines stirring up asteroids.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @06:38AM (#42213999)

    I don't see speculation anywhere in the scientific method.

    You don't? Perhaps you should reflect on the meaning of the word "hypothesis."

  • by Covalent (1001277) on Friday December 07, 2012 @07:45AM (#42214225)
    ...this is a statistically important discovery. This is a nearby solar system that is remarkably similar to our own. Find a few more like these (and we're well on our way in that department) and you'll have compelling evidence that solar systems like ours are very common. And this, in turn, suggests that habitable worlds are common.

    This would leave the Fermi paradox without one of its better possible explanations: that habitable worlds are exceedingly rare.

    It also means that human colonies in other solar systems may be more plausible than it currently seems.
  • Re:Spoiler: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:33PM (#42217143)
    Habitable zone != habitable. Go spend a weekend on Venus and then you'll understand.

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