Evidence of zodiacal light on other habitable worlds


Details in the dust

The team’s illustrations portray a poetic sense of the possible views. On both Kepler-1229b and Kepler-395c, red host stars would render an almost volcanic-looking zodiacal light. On Kepler-69c, the planet’s venusian environment might turn its zodiacal light into a white searchlight in a dark muted sky.

These results are not just aesthetic. The presence of dust suggests there could be — especially in the two younger systems — active formation of small objects like moons and minor planets. The prospect can help foster future research into how such smaller objects can both collide into and stabilize exoplanets.

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“Younger planet systems experience more activities (such as comet activities and asteroid collisions),” Ge told Astronomy. But “we cannot rule out that some old systems experience occasional activities.” For example, the oldest system, Kepler-69, might have been experiencing increased activity — such as collisions or cometary activity — close to the star while Kepler was observing it, Ge says.

As to anyone — or anything — actually looking up from those planets to see the zodiacal light, well, theoretically it’s possible.

Although Ge says astronomers have previously found debris disks around other systems, none of them were considered habitable. “Our work is the first-ever on zodiacal light and debris disks around habitable planet systems,” Ge says.

So, the next time you’re hunting for the zodiacal light here on Earth, perhaps you can stretch your imagination to some other worlds where eyes are also looking.

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