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This ‘Solar Twin,’ Found 184 Light-Years Away, Shares Characteristics with Our Sun

Well, the feelings people have when they found a brother or sister they have never seen in their whole life, as for example in the “Parent Trap” movie. However, for the Sun, this fantasy has become reality. A group of astronomers from different countries of the world has discovered something really stunning – a star that may well have coalesced in the same stellar cluster as the Sun. After observing many stars in the milky way galaxy the researchers are confident that other than finding a solar sister they may have found a solar twin.

This nearby star, catalogued as HD186302, is only the second solar twin known to science. This discovery may also provide insight to the formation of the Sun and that of its peers. Even it may pave a way to explore planets that are more habitable in this twin star system.

A Turbulent Past

The Sun used to be surrounded by a large number of other stars, billions of years ago, and is comparatively lonely now. They including the Sun were born in a huge cradle within Milky Way. But when the Milky Way formed, it’s tidal forces pulled this nursery apart, flinging stars in every direction. Identifying these stars has not been easy as they often migrate from their regions of formation significantly.

The AMBRE project is an ESO-OCA project aimed at searching for the Sun’s first and second generation ancestors. To calculate the age, chemical composition, and the path of stars in the Milky Way, spectrographs and data from ESA’s GAIA mission are used. Scientists from the Portuguese Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (AI) have studied a large data sample that contains data on 17,000 stars.

Mirror Image

Having carefully looked at the numerous data that exists in the cosmos, researchers have come across what can be described as a twin star of the sun. HD186302 is a main sequence star, and currently, it is located 184 light-years away from the Solar System. Not only it is as old as the Sun and has nearly the same chemical abundances and carbon isotope ratios, but it is almost a clone of the Sun. However, HD186302 has been identified as one of the only two stellar siblings, and the aforementioned HD 162826 was discovered back in 2014.

Such striking parallels afford astronomers a measure of chance to learn more detailed information about the surrounding context in which these twin stars were formed. By comparing these commonalities, scientists are able to describe how the original birthplace of these stars looked like, as well as other members of the celestial family that were similarly born there. Furthermore, this discovery has invited further questions from researchers on whether HD186302, like the Sun, can support life and planet habitability.

The lead researcher of the study, Vardan Adibekyan whose observations regarding HD186302 were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics released hinted at the potentiality of life transfer from one planet to the other or from Earth to other exoplanetary systems around that epoch of the late heavy bombardment. If indeed HD186302 has a rocky planet in the habitable zone and if the latter has been “pollinated” by the terrestrial seeds of life then it could well be an Earth 2. Of them, 0 is orbiting a Sun 2. 0, a dream scenario.

For a follow-up study, the team intends to use ESO’s ESPRESSO and HARPS spectrographs to carry out a direct search for other planets in the vicinity of HD186302. If this discovery were to happen it would allow scientists to determine the distinction of the types of planets that were formed around stars in our solar system to that of its sister star and thus identify the types of planets left behind by our ancient star cluster.

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