Hidden Nook

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mini-solar system found

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This artist's conception shows the relative size of a hypothetical planetary system anchored by a brown dwarf, compared with our own solar system. The celestial objects are not drawn to the same scale as their orbits.

It looks like a "mini-me" of our solar system has been found orbiting a dying star named PSR B1257+12. Although this solar system provides no "colonization interest," it does make for an interesting read for the bored.

The newfound small object orbits the pulsar at a distance equal to that from the sun to the asteroid belt, which is between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Observations suggest it marks the outer fringe of material that went into making the miniature solar system.

"Because our observations practically rule out a possible presence of an even more distant, massive planet or planets around the pulsar, it is quite possible that the tiny fourth planet is the largest member of a cloud of interplanetary debris at the outer edge of the pulsar's planetary system," said Penn State researcher Alex Wolszczan, who since 1990 has led the investigation into the system.

Although Earth-sized worlds have been found near dying worlds, they generally do not provide much interest, despite the fact that they may hold potential for themselves. Heat and water are the main requirements for future colonies, and these worlds generally lack both. Selah!

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By Darnell Clayton • 6:23 PM • Email Post • •


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