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What our solar system would look like to aliens

Scientists relied on a National Aeronautics and Space Administration supercomputer to figure out how our solar system would look like to aliens looking for other planets.

world Updated: Sep 26, 2010 18:58 IST

Scientists relied on a NASA supercomputer to figure out how our solar system would look like to aliens looking for other planets.

New simulations have tracked the interactions of myriads of dust grains to show that this view might have changed as our planetary system matured.

And astronomers hope that the new view could help them learn how to spot planets orbiting distant stars, the Daily Mail reported.

The dust originates in the Kuiper Belt, a cold storage zone beyond Neptune where millions of icy bodies, including Pluto, orbit the Sun, according to the Astronomical Journal.

Kuiper Belt objects occasionally crash into each other, and this relentless bump-and-grind produces a flurry of icy grains.

"Our new simulations also allow us to see how dust from the Kuiper Belt might have looked when the solar system was much younger," said Christopher Stark, Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C.

"In effect, we can go back in time and see how the distant view of the solar system may have changed," he added.

Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre who led the study, said: "The planets may be too dim to detect directly, but aliens studying the solar system could easily determine the presence of Neptune -- its gravity carves a little gap in the dust."

"We're hoping our models will help us spot Neptune-sized worlds around other stars," he added.