Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Models show one nearby star system could host Earth-like planet

25.07.2006
The steady discovery of giant planets orbiting stars other than our sun has heightened speculation that there could be Earth-type worlds in nearby planetary systems capable of sustaining life. Now researchers running computer simulations for four nearby systems that contain giant planets about the size of Jupiter have found one that could have formed an Earth-like planet with the right conditions to support life.

A second system is likely to have a belt of rocky bodies the size of Mars or smaller. The other two, the models show, do not have the proper conditions to form an Earth-size planet. Each system lies within 250 light years of Earth (a light year is about 5.88 trillion miles). Astronomers already have found evidence that each system contains at least two giant planets about the mass of Jupiter, which have migrated close to their stars, perhaps as close as Mercury is to the sun.

For each of the four systems, the researchers conducted 10 computerized simulations that placed small planet embryos, or protoplanets, in the system to see if they are able to gather more material and form a true planet the size of Earth. Each simulation assumed the same conditions in the planetary system except that the position and mass of each protoplanet was altered slightly, said Sean Raymond, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado, who took part in the work while he was an astronomy doctoral student at the University of Washington.

Raymond is lead author of a paper describing the research published in June in the Astrophysical Journal. Co-authors are Rory Barnes, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona who also took part in the work while a UW astronomy doctoral student, and Nathan Kaib, a UW doctoral student in astronomy. The work was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA's Astrobiology Institute and the National Science Foundation.

"It's exciting that our models show a habitable planet, a planet with mass, temperature and water content similar to Earth's, could have formed in one of the first extrasolar multi-planet systems detected," Barnes said.

Recent studies show many known extrasolar planetary systems have regions stable enough to support planets ranging from the mass of Earth to that of Saturn. The UW models tested planet formation in systems called 55 Cancri, HD 38529, HD 37124 and HD 74156. The researchers assumed the systems are complete and the orbits of their giant planets are well established. They also assumed conditions that might allow formation of small bodies that could develop into rocky, Earth-like planets.

In the models, the scientists placed moon-sized planet embryos between giant planets and allowed them to evolve for 100 million years. With those assumptions, they found terrestrial planets formed readily in 55 Cancri, sometimes with substantial water and orbits in the system's habitable zone. They found HD 38529 is likely to support an asteroid belt and Mars-sized or smaller bodies but no notable terrestrial planets. No planets formed in HD 37124 and HD 74156.

"What surprised me the most was to see the system that only formed planets the size of Mars or smaller," Raymond said. "Anything that grew too big would be unstable, so there was an accumulation of a lot of smaller protoplanets maybe one-tenth the size of Earth."

It was significant, Kaib said, that the models showed conditions could remain stable enough for 100 million years so that a planetary embryo would have a chance to gather more substance and develop into a body the size of the moon or Mars. "In our early system, that's probably what our inner solar system looked like, with hundreds of bodies that size," he said.

Extrasolar planets have been discovered with increasing frequency in recent years because of techniques that detect giant planets by their gravitational effect on their parent stars. It is uncertain how the giant planets evolve, but they are thought to form far away from their host stars and then migrate inward, pushed by the gas discs from which they formed. If the migration occurs late in the system's development, the giant planets might destroy most of the materials needed to build Earth-like planets, Raymond said. He noted that while the presence of giant planets is fairly well established, it will be some time before it is possible to detect much smaller Earth-sized planets around other stars.

For another recent paper, Raymond ran more than 450 computer simulations to map giant planet orbits that allow Earth-like planets to form. If a giant planet is too close it will prevent rocky material from amassing into an Earth-sized planet. That study showed that only about 5 percent of the known giant-planet systems are likely to have Earth-like planets. But because of long observation times and sensitive equipment needed to detect planets the size of Saturn and Jupiter, it is possible there could be many planetary systems such as ours in this galaxy, he said.

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells

19.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>