A team of astronomers, led by Vardan Adibekyan from Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences - IA), claims to have discovered a solar sibling - a star that originated in the same stellar nursery as our Sun, about 4.6 billion years ago.
Astronomers believe this star is not just a solar sibling, but possibly a solar twin.
The chemical compositions and the ages of solar siblings must be very similar to that of the Sun, according to scientists.
The findings are significant as they can enable scientists to have a better understanding of the environment in which the Sun and other stars were formed. They can also help astronomers discover some new planets orbiting the solar twin and having potential of harboring life.
It is a difficult task to find solar siblings in our galaxy. The Sun, as we know it today, was formed billions of years ago in a massive cluster along with thousands of other stars - the solar siblings. As time went by, the tidal forces within the Milky Way led to tearing apart of the galaxy and scattering of stars much far away from their birthplace.
In the new study, researchers from the AMBRE project attempted to find the ancient family of the Sun. AMBRE - a collaboration between ESO and the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur - is a galactic archaeology project.
Astronomers used about 230,000 high-resolution spectrographs (from AMBRE project) and the data gathered by ESA's GAIA spacecraft to analyse the chemical composition, motion, and ages of nearly 17,000 stars in the Milky Way.
From 17 000 stars, the team first identified 55 stars whose metallicities were found to be closest to that of the Sun. Our further selection, the team could identify just one star that had roughly the same chemical composition, metalliicity, ratios of carbon isotopes, and age as the Sun. According to astronomers, this star - dubbed HD186302 - is located about 184 light-years from Earth and is G3-type main sequence star. It is only the second known close relative of the Sun in the universe.
Earlier in 2014, astronomers had discovered another Sun-like star, named HD 162826.
"Since there isn't much information about the Sun's past, studying these stars can help us understand where in the Galaxy and under which conditions the Sun was formed." said Vardan Adibekyan.
The team now plans to use ESO's HARPS and ESPRESSO spectrographs to study the star and its orbiting planets.
The findings of the study are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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