Discover the first alien asteroid belt hanger captured by the James Webb Space Telescope! Thanks to this incredible discovery, we can finally take a look at an asteroid belt hanger outside our solar system. A major achievement for humanity!
A historic discovery in space thanks to the James Webb telescope
For the very first time, we can admire an asteroid belt hanger located outside our solar system. This exceptional feat was achieved thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, and the European Space Agency (ESA) offers us an official glimpse.
The cloudy asteroid belt hanger is around Fomalhaut, a hot young star about 25 light years from our Earth. It is so close that it is visible to the naked eye in the night sky, especially in the constellation Southern Pisces.
A complex system around the star Fomalhaut
Around Fomalhaut is concentrated a system of three interlocking belts, extending over 23 million kilometers, or about 150 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. According to the first observations of the James Webb telescope, this formation would be more complex than those we find in our own solar system, like the Kuiper belt – beyond Neptune -, or the main belt – located between Jupiter and Mars.
Although this was the first time the Fomalhaut asteroid belt hanger was photographed, it had been discovered much earlier, in 1983. At that time, NASA pointed its infrared astronomical satellite at the star's location. However, it is only with the arrival of the James Webb telescope that the existence of the two inner bends of the system could be confirmed.
Fomalhaut, a model for other debris disks in our galaxy
“I would describe Fomalhaut as the archetype of debris disks found elsewhere in our galaxy, because it has similar components to those we have in our own planetary system,” says András Gáspár, lead author of the study that revealed the James Webb Telescope results.
By looking at the patterns of these hangers, we can begin to sketch what a planetary system might look like, if we could take a picture deep enough to see the suspect planets…
The mystery of the planets orbiting Fomalhaut
The revelations of the James Webb telescope have surprised researchers. According to the results, the inner asteroid belt hanger is about 10 times wider than originally expected. But that's not all: it was revealed that the second hanger has a tilt of at least 23 degrees relative to all other elements orbiting the star. What is the reason for this phenomenon? Everything seems to indicate that this is the result of the presence of planets in orbit around Fomalhaut.
“The hangers-on around Fomalhaut are a kind of detective story: where are the planets?” asks George Rieke, one of the astronomers involved in the study. “I don't think it's a big step to say there's probably a really interesting planetary system around the star.
As for the outermost ring, it looks more like that of our own solar system, the Kuiper Belt. Nevertheless, the James Webb telescope has also observed a curious formation around Fomalhaut. The latter has been named by researchers the Great Dust Nebula. Its origin could lie in the collision of two space rocks of more than 644 km wide. However, it remains to be confirmed if it is part of the system or if it shines beyond it.
Regarding the planets that we could find around Fomalhaut, the researchers have good intuitions. According to them, there could be three or more planets orbiting the star, and they would be similar in size to Uranus or Neptune. In order to discover them, scientists are already examining the images provided by the James Webb telescope.
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