The studies of astronomers and other scientific researchers have revealed that Epsilon Eridani is the star with a planetary system that is the nearest to our solar system. The star itself is located 10.5 light years from The Sun. It is situated within the constellation Eridanus. The star has a luminosity that is a mere twenty-eight percent the brightness of our Sun, and it is eighty-five percent as massive as our star.
There is a belt of dust that orbits Epsilon Eridani. It is suspected to have been formed from the collisions of planet-sized objects, likely actual planets, that orbit the star. The belt is suspected to have formed, and to remain in tact, due to the collisions and gravitational forces of orbiting planets and passing comets. It is referred to as exozodiacal dust because it is situated more closely with the orbits of the system’s inner planets, similar to our solar system’s asteroid belt.
The resulting dust belt is equal to an object that is one-sixth the mass of The Moon. Along with dust, the belt is composed of water-ice. There are hints that the clumps remain, and were created, due to the constant crashings between minor planets, called plutinos, that orbit the star. The presence of this dust belt adds credence to the currently recognized data that shows how planets accrete, then form into actual worlds, due to the continuous clumpings of dust particles.
This dust-belt is suspected to remain intact due to gravitational forces from the nearest planet, Epsilon Eridani b. It is largely believed that the dust belt is of a clumpy nature because of this gravity, as well. This is due to it being a relatively young star. It is a mere 800 million years in age, compared to The Sun, which boasts roughly 4.5 billion years of age (The Sun is a mid-life star…).
Epsilon Eridani b is similar in size to Jupiter. It is roughly 1.5 times as massive as our solar system’s king world. This extrasolar planet orbits it’s host star in at a rate of 6.9 years. Studying scientists were excited to discover that this planet has an orbit that is angularly tilted around Epsilon Eridani, just like a ring of dust that orbits that star. This interesting observation has lead scientists to presume that the dust is the remnant material from planets that have formed around that star.
As the Epsilon Eridani system is roughly 10.5 light years, or sixty-three trillion miles, away, it is unlikely that humanity will be physically viewing it any time soon! Yet, images from The Hubble Space Telescope, The Spitzer Space Telescope, and other instruments, are providing details about how this region of space might look to the human eye. These research tools, which currently are in use by scientific observers, are providing intriguing images of what exists beyond our particular niche of the universe!
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F.Y.I.: Epsilon Eridani is the home star