Study of material surrounding distant stars shows Earth's ingredients 'pretty normal'

ScienceDaily | 8/15/2018 | Staff
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Click For Photo: https://www.sciencedaily.com/images/2018/08/180815190530_1_540x360.jpg

This is amongst the largest examinations to measure the general composition of materials in other planetary systems, and begins to allow scientists to draw more general conclusions on how they are forged, and what this might mean for finding Earth-like bodies elsewhere.

"Most of the building blocks we have looked at in other planetary systems have a composition broadly similar to that of the Earth," said researcher Dr Siyi Xu of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, who was presenting the work at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston.

Planets - Stars - Pulsar - Scientists - Stars

The first planets orbiting other stars were only found in 1992 (this was orbiting a pulsar), since then scientists have been trying to understand whether some of these stars and planets are similar to our own solar system.

"It is difficult to examine these remote bodies directly. Because of the huge distances involved, their nearby star tends to drown out any electromagnetic signal, such as light or radio waves" said Siyi Xu. "So we needed to look at other methods."

Team - Building - Blocks - Signals - Dwarf

Because of this, the team decided to look at how the planetary building blocks affect signals from white dwarf stars. These are stars which have burnt off most of their hydrogen and helium, and shrunk to be very small and dense -- it is anticipated that our Sun will become a white dwarf in around 5 billion years.

Dr Xu continued, "White dwarfs' atmospheres are composed of either hydrogen or helium, which give out a pretty clear and clean spectroscopic signal. However, as the star cools, it begins to pull in material from the planets, asteroids, comets and so on which had been orbiting it, with some forming a dust disk, a little like the rings of Saturn. As this material approaches the star, it changes how we see the star. This change is measurable because it influences...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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