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Scenarios for the Evolution of Asteroid Belts
Ssc2012 15a

Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI

Artwork • November 1st, 2012 • ssc2012-15a

ssc2012-15a

This illustration shows three possible scenarios for the evolution of asteroid belts. In the top panel, a Jupiter-size planet migrates through the asteroid belt, scattering material and inhibiting the formation of life on planets. The second scenario shows our solar-system model: a Jupiter-size planet that moves slightly inward but is just outside the asteroid belt. In the third illustration, a large planet does not migrate at all, creating a massive asteroid belt. Material from the hefty asteroid belt would bombard planets, possibly preventing life from evolving.

New research based on an analysis of theoretical models and archival observations, including infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, suggests that the second scenario may also be important for the development of life in other solar systems.

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