Second Earth in the making?

Sig07019_smallHave astronomers spotted a second Earth in the making? According to an MSNBC post via Space.com: 

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have spotted a huge belt of warm dust swirling around a young star called HD 113766 that is just slightly larger than our sun. The dust belt, which scientists suspect is clumping together to form planets, is located in the middle of the star system's terrestrial habitable zone where temperatures are moderate enough to sustain liquid water. Scientists estimate there is enough material in the belt to form a Mars-sized world or larger.

The Spitzer Space Telescope newsroom has the original story here, as well an audiocast if you'd prefer to listen to the news.

To date, more than 250 exoplanets - bodies outside our solar system - have been discovered. Most appear to fall into the "hot Jupiter" category - gas giants orbiting too close to their parent star to support life as we know it.

The image above is an artist's conception of the binary star system in question. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ C. Lisse (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

Wayne