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Beyond Earthly Skies

Vega’s Asteroid Belt

28 Mar 2013, 09:51 UTC
Vega’s Asteroid Belt
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Our solar system consists of a warm-and-cold-belt architecture. The warm belt corresponds to the asteroid belt and the cold belt corresponds to the Kuiper belt. Both belts are separated by a large gap that is populated by the giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The asteroid belt has a characteristic temperature of ~170 K and is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The more outlying Kuiper belt has a characteristic temperature of ~50 K and it extends beyond the orbit of Neptune. It is worth considering if such warm-and-cold-belt architectures also exist around other stars, if they might be common and if such belts may serve as clues to the existence of planets.Spectroscopic studies were performed using the infrared spectrograph instrument on NASA’s Spitzer space telescope on Vega - a relatively nearby star about 25 light-years away. The observations revealed a mid-infrared excess which corresponds to material with a characteristic temperature of ~170 K. This indicates the presence of an asteroid belt at a distance of ~14 AU around Vega, analogous to the asteroid belt in our solar system. Since Vega is 37 times more luminous than our Sun, the asteroid belt around Vega is located ...

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