Space dust forming a new Earth, say experts

A NEW Earth could be forming in a band of dust swirling round a star 424 light years away, claim astronomers.

The belt of warm dust, which scientists suspect is beginning to clump into planets, is located in the middle of the star's "habitable zone".

Also known as the "Goldilocks zone", this is a region just the right distance from a star to allow liquid water and possibly life to exist on a rocky planet. Earth is ideally situated in the Sun's habitable zone.

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At about ten million years old, the star is also at just the right age to be forming rocky planets.

US astronomers made the discovery after observing the star HD 113766 using the space agency NASA's Spitzer space telescope.

Dr Carey Lisse, from the Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said: "The timing for this system to be building an Earth is very good."

The right mix of dusty materials is also needed to form an Earth-like planet.

The research is due to be published in a future issue of Astrophysical Journal.

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