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Why It's Likely 'We're Not Alone In Cosmos'
 

Source: The Toronto Star

Feb. 20, 2001. 12:49 AM

http://www.thestar.com/

[World News]

Why It's Likely 'We're Not Alone In Cosmos'

Leslie Papp
Staff Reporter

"It's one more indication that life might be
common in the galaxy. There's no direct
evidence there's another Earth, but it's
pointing in that direction."
  - U of T astronomer Norman Murray
 

SAN FRANCISCO - A Toronto astronomer has found fresh evidence
that we're likely not alone in the cosmos.

After analyzing the iron content of stars, Norman Murray of the
University of Toronto has concluded "Earth-like bodies' orbit
around most stars in our galaxy.

And, if that many stars have planets, it greatly increases the
odds of having other 'Earths' that can support life.
 

"It's one more indication that life might be common in the
galaxy," Murray told reporters at a science conference here.
"There's no direct evidence there's another Earth, but it's
pointing in that direction."

His findings were released yesterday at the annual meeting of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the
world's largest federation of scientists.

Murray found that a high iron content is common to our sun and
to the 55 sun-like stars which are known to have giant planets.
The existence of these planets has been deduced through their
huge gravitational pull, which exerts a visible influence on
their "sun." In one case, a planet has actually been observed
passing across the face of its parent star.

Using imaging technology that can establish the materials
stewing within stars, Murray examined the iron level in 466
stars. Subjecting that data to a series of intricate
calculations, he found statistical patterns which showed the
iron must have been added after the stars had formed.
 

Murray examined the iron level in 466 stars

And he systematically eliminated possible iron sources until
concluding there could only be one source: orbiting planetary
material.

Our own solar system shows how planets spin iron into the sun,
he said.

A huge ring of iron-rich asteroids between Mars and Jupiter is
continually being disrupted by Jupiter's gravity, sending some
asteroids spinning out of our solar system and others hurtling
into the sun. A few are caught by Earth's gravity and become
meteors.Over eons, iron twice the mass of Earth has accumulated
in the sun. Murray said. And there's a similar iron "signature"
in the other sun-like stars known to have planets.

Based on iron content, "there are Earth-like bodies orbiting
around most stars in the galaxy," he said.

If just half the galaxy's stars have some sort of planet, and if
even one per cent of those planets were Earth-like, it would
mean the existence of more than a billion "Earths," he said.

Murray said it's possible to have iron-rich asteroids spinning
around a star without any planets.

But, for that orbiting iron to get into the star, some planet
would need to disrupt asteroids and send them crashing into the
star.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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