The Webb Telescope has photographed an asteroid belt outside our solar system for the first time
The James Webb Space Telescope has reached another milestone by capturing the first image of the asteroid belt ever seen outside the Solar System. Thanks to this, scientists were able to better study one of the brightest stars in the night sky – Fomalhaut. It is located 25 light years from Earth and is surrounded by three asteroid belts, writes Engadget.
Such conclusions were reached by a group of specialists, consisting mainly of astronomers from the University of Arizona and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The results of their research were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
According to them, the nearest ring is similar to the asteroid belt of our solar system. It extends from about seven astronomical units from the star to 80 astronomical units from it. To put those numbers into perspective, that’s about 10 times wider than astronomers expected to find the inner asteroid belt.
Another interesting feature concerns the second debris belt – it is tilted 23 degrees from everything else in the star’s orbit. The researchers call this a unique aspect and believe that the tilted belt may be the result of the presence of planets orbiting Fomalhaut that astronomers have not yet discovered.
“The belts around Fomalhaut are kind of a mystery novel: Where are the planets?” said George Rieke, one of the astronomers involved in the study. “I think it’s not a very big leap to say there’s probably a really interesting planetary system around the star.”
The most distant ring is similar to the Kuiper belt in our solar system. It includes an object that scientists have named the Great Dust Cloud. It is not clear whether this object is part of the Fomalhaut star system or something that shines from beyond it. But scientists suspect that it was formed as a result of two space bodies with a width of more than 640 km.
According to the research participants, three or more planets the size of Uranus and Neptune may orbit Fomalhaut. They are now analyzing telescope images that will help detect this.
We will remind you that recently a group of astronomers for the first time observed a star absorb a planet. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, and other institutions saw the phenomenon and reported it in a study published in the journal Nature.