Using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, Dr Massimo Marengo—from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics—and Dr Dana Backman—from the SETI Institute—are claiming that there's a solar system which is a younger twin of our own, just 10.5 light-years from us. Nothing surprising, really, until they tell you that the star is called Epsilon Eridani. Which just happens to be, hold your tinfoil hats on, the legendary home star of a certain Mr. Spock. According to Marengo, they have a pretty good idea of how it looks like:
Studying Epsilon Eridani [artist representation above] is like having a time machine to look at our solar system when it was young. This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth. Epsilon Eridani looks a lot like the young solar system, so it's conceivable that it will evolve similarly.
Looking at the Spitzer data, the Epsilon Eriadni solar system should have at least three planets in orbit. At least, Marengo and Backman are saying this is the only way to explain its asteroid belt configuration, which is very similar to our own, but in a more primitive state. These include one inner asteroid belt which is a virtual duplicate to the one between Mars and Jupiter. There's also an outer ring similar to the Kuiper Belt. The latter holds 100 times more material than ours because it hasn't go through a process called the Late Heavy Bombardment yet. In theory, this happened when our solar system's planets attracted much of the Kuiper belt into the inner orbits. Finally, there's a third belt located in the equivalent orbit of Uranus, with as much mass as our Moon. According to Marengo, "planets are the easiest way to explain what we're seeing." We believe you, Dr Marengo Sir. Of course, it could all just be a huge scam, a deception, a camouflage system designed to hide one of the largest starship construction facilities in the Federation from our puny telescopes. And yes, right there I just became the nerdiest Gizmodo editor second only to Jason Chen. [Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics]