Monday, August 20, 2007

Earthlike Debris Circles Ringed Star

Scientists peering through the Keck I Telescope in Hawaii recently discovered an awe-inspiring scene some 150 light years away, reports Scientific American. It’s playing out in a ghostly solar system with a White Dwarf, named GD 362, at its core.

Ages ago, GD 362 was a star like our own sun. As part of its natural lifecycle, it eventually expanded into a red giant before collapsing in on itself. At this point, GD 362 is the size of Earth, but has the mass of the Sun. And it’s circled by a dusty halo resembling the Rings of Saturn

Looking through Keck I, scientists detected debris of an asteroid with chemical characteristics resembling the Earth: high in iron and calcium, but low in carbon.

Given the similarities, “GD 362 may offer a glimpse into our solar system's future,” according to the Scientific American report.

When the Sun goes red giant, it will probably “engulf and destroy” Mercury and Venus, according to one scientist. What of Earth? Aside from being charred beyond recognition, it would “spiral out of orbit.”

Impressive imagery, eh? Our once mighty sun reduced to the size of Earth with a set of rings, the leftovers of our inner solar system. A scorched Earth spiraling into the abyss as our sun swells out of control. I wonder if another civilization will be watching as the drama unfolds. I wonder if a civilization around GD 362 didn’t wonder the same thing, perhaps, as they gazed upon the remains of another star elsewhere in the galaxy.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.