Earth-like planet may be forming
by Caleb Reading
SNUGGLED in a huge belt of warm dust, an Earth-like planet appears to be forming some 424 light years away, scientists say.
At between 10 and 16 million years old, the planet’s solar system was still in its “very young adolescence”, but was at the perfect age for forming Earth-like planets, said lead researcher Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
The huge dust ring surrounding one of the system’s two stars is smack in the middle of the system’s “habitable zone” where water could one day exist on a rocky planet.
These types of dust belts rarely form around sun-like stars and the presence of an outer ice belt makes it all the more likely that water, and subsequently life, could one day reach the planet’s surface.
And this belt is made up of rocky compounds similar to those which form our Earth’s crust and metal sulfides similar to the material found in the Earth’s core.
It would likely be about 100 million years before the planet was fully formed and – if our planet was anything to go by – about a billion years before the first signs of life such as algae appeared, Mr Lisse said.
You mean it’s not 6,000 years old? Sacrilege.