Agriculture
Earth-Friendly Fabrics
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Seeds of the Future
Amphibians
Salamanders and Newts
Frogs and Toads
Bullfrogs
Animals
Killer Flatworms Hunt with Poison
A Microbe Nanny for Young Wasps
Ants on Stilts
Behavior
Copycat Monkeys
The nerve of one animal
The Disappearing Newspaper
Birds
Rheas
Hummingbirds
Macaws
Chemistry and Materials
Earth from the inside out
Nanomagnets Corral Oil
Sweeeet! The Skinny on Sugar Substitutes
Computers
A New Look at Saturn's rings
Two monkeys see a more colorful world
New twists for phantom limbs
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Big Fish in Ancient Waters
Dino Bite Leaves a Tooth
Mammals in the Shadow of Dinosaurs
E Learning Jamaica
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Earth
Life trapped under a glacier
Earth Rocks On
Giving Sharks Safe Homes
Environment
Pumping Up Poison Ivy
Animal CSI or from Science Lab to Crime Lab
Ready, unplug, drive
Finding the Past
An Ancient Childhood
Your inner Neandertal
Traces of Ancient Campfires
Fish
Barracudas
Bass
Salmon
Food and Nutrition
Making good, brown fat
Eat Out, Eat Smart
Food for Life
GSAT English Rules
Who vs. Whom
Subject and Verb Agreement
Adjectives and Adverbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT Exam Preparation
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
Play for Science
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
Losing with Heads or Tails
Human Body
A Fix for Injured Knees
Don't Eat That Sandwich!
Speedy Gene Gives Runners a Boost
Invertebrates
Lobsters
Krill
Mussels
Mammals
Jaguars
African Zebra
Asiatic Bears
Parents
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Physics
Speedy stars
Black Hole Journey
Extra Strings for New Sounds
Plants
Nature's Alphabet
Fungus Hunt
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Reptiles
Gila Monsters
Asp
Snakes
Space and Astronomy
Ready, Set, Supernova
Sounds of Titan
Wrong-way planets do gymnastics
Technology and Engineering
Reach for the Sky
Algae Motors
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
The Parts of Speech
Pronouns
What is a Noun
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
Where rivers run uphill
Robots on a Rocky Road
Robots on the Road, Again
Weather
Watering the Air
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
Add your Article

A Star's Belt of Dust and Rocks

Between Mars and Jupiter, a band of rocks and dust orbits our sun. Astronomers call it the asteroid belt, and they think that it contains scraps of rock left over from a time when the planets formed nearly 5 billion years ago.

New evidence suggests that ours is not the only solar system with this type of asteroid belt. Astronomers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have found the best evidence yet that a belt of warm dust circles fairly close to a star called Zeta Leporis.

Astronomers first became excited about Zeta Leporis in the 1980s. That’s when a satellite revealed that the star was putting out an unexpectedly large amount of infrared light. Infrared light is a type of energy. High levels of infrared radiation near a star suggest that the star is surrounded by dust. The dust absorbs visible light from the star and, in turn, emits infrared radiation, which is detectable as heat.

In 2001, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles used the Keck Observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea to show that the dust surrounding Zeta Leporis is part of a disk. They also found that the disk reaches only slightly farther from Zeta Leporis than Jupiter is from our sun.

In February 2005, the University of Florida team used the Gemini South telescope in Chile to measure the size of Zeta Leporis’ disk more accurately.

Most of the dust, they found, lies at a distance of 3 AU from the star. (One AU equals the average distance of Earth from the sun.) Our solar system’s asteroid belt stretches between 2.1 and 3.3 AU from the sun.

Scientists have already found disks of dust around other stars. But most of these disks are much larger and more distant—as far away from their stars as Pluto and the comet-filled Kuiper belt are from our sun. These bands of distant dust are also cool in temperature. The fact that the disk around Zeta Leporis is warm and fairly close to the star makes it special.

The researchers suspect that numerous asteroids continually bumped against each other near Zeta Leporis, producing a fine spray of rocky particles that became the planet’s dusty asteroid belt. It’s also possible that the dust came from a single collision between two large asteroids, which broke up both objects.

Next, the researchers want to get a better sense of the belt’s shape. If they find that the disk is circular and the dust evenly spread out, this would suggest a long, slow grinding of asteroids against each other. A more irregular shape would suggest that the dust came from a single dramatic collision, perhaps only about 100 years ago.

Whatever they find, the insight will be valuable. “For years we’ve been studying Kuiper belt–like disks,” says astronomer Charles M. Telesco of the University of Florida. “Now, we’re investigating the architecture of the inner asteroidal regions” around stars. “This is kind of new territory,” he adds.

Zeta Leporis is just 70 light-years from Earth. At 230 million years of age, the star is much younger than our 4.6-billion-year-old sun. But it’s still old enough for planets to have formed around it. The fact that Zeta Leporis has an asteroid belt similar to ours suggests that the star might also have rocky planets like Earth.—E. Sohn

A Star's Belt of Dust and Rocks
A Star's Belt of Dust and Rocks








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™