UF scientists discover evidence of asteroid belt

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 1:00 a.m.
University of Florida scientists have found evidence of the smallest asteroid belt ever discovered outside of our solar system, which suggests the presence of distant Earth-like planets.
Authors Margaret Moerchen, a graduate student, and astronomy professor Charles Telesco detected the asteroid belt orbiting the star Zeta Leporis, which is 70 light years from our solar system.
The findings will be reported in a Feb. 1 Astrophysical Journal Letters article. Telesco said such belts, composed of small rocks and dust, are the debris left over from the formation of planets.
"If they're really asteroids, it would suggest that there are rocky planets there, like the Earth," he said.
Using a unique camera mounted atop a powerful telescope in the Andes Mountains of Chile, on Feb. 3, 2005, the scientists detected heat given off by dust particles around Zeta Leporis, consistent with those in an asteroid belt.
"There's a little bit of luck involved, and it happened to be a good night of weather," Moerchen said.
While Zeta Leporis is a relatively young star - Earth's sun is approximately 20 times older - Telesco said it is old enough to have formed planets.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top