Researchers have discovered another star “almost certainly” born out of the same cloud of dust and gas as our own.
This ‘solar sibling” could help us understand our own sun, and there’s a small chance it or other members of the sun’s family could be orbited by planets that contain life.
“We want to know where we were born,” said lead the team’s lead researcher, astronomer Ivan Ramirez of The University of Texas at Austin. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”
Ramirez said that it’s not only possible that solar siblings contain life, but that life on earth may have originated on one of them. In the early days of the “birth cluster” collisions could have knocked chunks off planets.
“So it could be argued that solar siblings are key candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life,” Ramirez said.
The sun’s brother, or sister, how could you check, is named HD 162826. It’s 15 percent bigger than our sun and 110 light-years away in the Hercules constellation, so it has an excuse for not visiting at Christmas. But not for never calling.
You can see HD 162826 with some binoculars and this chart:
The team narrowed a field of possible solar sibling candidates down to HD 162826 through hard work, high-resolution spectroscopy to study its makeup, and studying its orbit.
Although finding one solar sibling is heartwarming, the purpose of the research is to eventually get together a big family reunion. The techniques used in this search will be useful to streamline the process as more data about our galaxy pours in from projects like Gaia, the European Space Agency mission to create the “largest and most precise 3-D map of the Milky Way.”
[Source: University of Texas]