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Spitzer spies extrasolar asteroid belt
Posted: Wed, Apr 20, 2005, 9:45 PM ET (0145 GMT)
Extrasolar asteroid belt illustration (NASA) Astronomers said Wednesday that they have discovered what they believe is an asteroid belt encircling a nearby Sun-like star. The astronomers identified the belt orbiting the star HD69830, 41 light-years from the Earth, based on infrared observations of the star by the Spitzer Space Telescope which showed the presence of a warm disk of material surrounding it. This belt is much closer to the star than the Earth's asteroid belt, located closer to the star than Venus is from the Sun. There is also 25 times as much material in this extrasolar asteroid belt. Astronomers did note that they could not rule out a giant comet as the source of the material; followup observations by Spitzer and groundbased telescopes will be required to determine if the "long shot" comet explanation is valid.
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