Discovery of comets orbiting young star may hold key to life history on earth

An international team of astronomers have discovered a star surrounded by comets where conditions are similar to our solar system when the earth was just a barren wasteland, according to a study published Thursday by the University of Cambridge.

The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, will now study the star and comets to learn more about what our solar system was like in its “infancy.”

They used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope in northern Chile to detect very low levels of carbon monoxide gas around the star, in amounts that are consistent with the comets in our own solar system.

The results of the research are the first step in establishing the properties of cloud comets around sun-like stars just after the time of their birth.

When the solar system was born, the earth was barren and scientists believe that the continued collision of comets with the earth brought water and other elements to the dead planet that helped in the creation of life.

The star studied is HD 181327, which has a mass about 30 percent greater than the sun and is 160 light years away in the Painter constellation.

The system is about 23 million years old, compared to our solar system which is 4.6 billion years old.

“Young systems such as this one are very active, with comets and asteroids slamming into each other and into planets,” said Sebastian Marino, a PhD student from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy and the lead author in the study.

“The system has a similar ice composition to our own, so it’s a good one to study in order to learn what our solar system looked like early in its existence,” he added.

The study has been accepted for publication by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. (Xinhua)