Astronomers discover two asteroid belts around Vega

Jan 10, 2013
Astronomers discover two asteroid belts around Vega

If you're a sky watcher, you may be familiar with Vega. Vega is the fifth brightest star in the sky. Astronomers have recently made an interesting discovery that has to do with Vega. Using data from the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope and the ESA Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have discovered that Vega has two asteroid belts and may have an entire system of exoplanets.

Both the ESA and NASA orbital observatories use infrared light for their observations. Vega is 25 light years away from the Earth in the constellation Lyra. Astronomers discovered during their observations that the star has a warm inner belt of asteroids and a cool outer belt of asteroids. The outer belt of asteroids is roughly 10 times further from the star than the inner belt.

Vega's two asteroid belts are separated by a gap. Interestingly, our sun also has two asteroid belts that use the same 1:10 ratio that has astronomers interest piqued. Other than having two asteroid belts, Vega and our sun are very different. Vega is twice as massive as the sun and significantly younger at approximately 600,000,000 years old compared to the sun's 4 billion years of age. Vega is also much hotter and brighter than the sun.

Astronomers say that both Spitzer and Herschel were able to see the two belts of rocky debris from dust that the belts produced. This dust is created by the asteroids bumping and colliding together. The heat from Vega heats up this dust causing it to glow in infrared light allowing the orbiting observatories to view the dust clouds. The gap between the two asteroid belts suggests that planets are orbiting within the cloud of debris surrounding Vega. These plants have yet to be discovered but scientists are continuing their investigation.

[via Discovery]

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