How I Met Your Sister: The Sun's Solar Sibling is Discovered
In a plot twist straight out of a soap opera, scientists have discovered that our sun has a long lost sister. The sister in question is named HD 162826. She is 15 percent larger than the sun and slightly hotter, so I guess this makes her the "hot one". She is located in the constellation Hercules, which is about 110 lightyears away from the sun— a distance those with serious sibling rivalries might find pretty enviable.
Stars like the Earth's sun are born in stellar nurseries along with hundreds of thousands of other siblings. Much like how family members drift apart after maturing, these sibling stars eventually disband as gravitational forces push them onto their own individual paths.
So, what's the process for declaring the star the equivalent of a DNA match? Well, scientists matched these star's chemical components using high-resolution spectroscopy. Scientists also linked their family history to each other by tracking HD 162826's past orbits around the Milky Way, which were similar to that of the sun. Using these tests, scientists were able to rule out 30 other potential siblings, leaving them with just one special star.
Learning about the branches of the sun's family tree will help scientists discover more about how the sun was born and became a host to a planet capable of sustaining life. So far, scientists believe that HD 162826 is not host to a large, "hot Jupiter" planet with a very closer orbit, but is possibly host to smaller terrestrial planets.
Discovering what planets HD 162826 hosts will also be vital to discovering extraterrestrial life. Ivan Ramirez, astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin, who revealed the sun's new sister shared that there's a slight chance that one of these terrestrial planets could be life-bearing. He says, "collisions could have knocked chunks off planets, and these fragments could have travelled between solar systems, and perhaps may have been responsible for bringing primitive life to Earth. Or fragments from Earth could have transported life to planets orbiting solar siblings."
The sun's been going through some big changes lately, as scientists also just discovered the first ever square shaped coronal hole ever observed in its upper atmosphere created by solar winds.