Nine years ago in a piece titled Asteroid Belts, Possible Planets Around Epsilon Eridani, I discussed work that Massimo Marengo was doing on the nearby star, examining rings of material around Epsilon Eridani and considering the possibilities with regard to planets. Marengo (now at Iowa State University) has recently been working with Kate Su (University of Arizona) and other colleagues, using the SOFIA telescope (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) to help us refine our understanding of the evolving planetary system.
Image: Astronomers (left to right) Massimo Marengo, Andrew Helton and Kate Su study images of epsilon Eridani during their SOFIA mission. Credit: Massimo Marengo.
The researchers used the 2.5-meter telescope aboard the Boeing 747SP jetliner to collect data about the star, working at 45,000 feet in a region above most of the atmospheric water vapor that absorbs the infrared light being studied. Epsilon Eridani is a bit over 10 light years from the Sun, and about a fifth of its age, meaning we have close at hand a stellar system that can help us understand what our own Solar System was like in its youth.
The new paper confirms Marengo’s earlier findings that there are separate inner and outer ...