'Baby Earth in the making' sighted

July 17, 1998

Astronomers using a British telescope have sighted "a baby Earth in the making" orbiting a nearby star. "This is going to make an Earth-type planet," said Helen Walker of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford.

The discovery was made using the James Clerk Maxwell telescope on Hawaii. Astronomers knew that there was a cloud of dust around the star, Epsilon Eridani, from earlier observations. When they used a new instrument on the telescope, they saw a bright dot that they believe is an embryonic planet.

Epsilon Eridani, at ten light years away, is one of the Sun's ten nearest neighbours. "It is as though we are looking back in time to the point where the planets were formed," Dr Walker said.

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