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“Naked Eye” Solar System Discovered

Astronomers have discovered a solar system around a star that’s close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye. At least one and possibly three planets are orbiting Epsilon Eridani, the ninth-closest star to our own.

It’s much, much younger than our own system–only around 850 million years old–giving researchers a glimpse of what our system might have looked like at the same age. Since it’s speculated that life on Earth took root somewhere around the same time frame, this is particularly exciting.

In addition to the big gas giant they’re sure about, there are a couple of suspicious gaps in the asteroid swath surrounding the sun which indicate where other Jupiter-sized planets might be lurking. Even more interesting is that the area nearest the star is clear of debris, similar to our own system, so there might be smaller rocky (Earthlike!) planets in there that are too small for us to see yet.

I vote that we start broadcasting a constant stream of carefully-encrypted gibberish in that direction. Eventually sentient life will evolve there, reach out into the universe questing for signs of alien intelligence, and then we’ll totally mess with their heads.

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Posted in News, Space October 29th, 2008 by Chip
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