London, September 2 : Astronomers have detected a giant ring of debris around a nearby star that appears to be a much bigger version of our solar system's Kuiper belt, which may be swarming with comets.
The Kuiper belt is the region of ice-rich objects beyond Neptune that is thought to be a source of comets.
According to a report in New Scientist, a team led by Christine Chen of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, used the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope and the Gemini South telescope in Chile to study infrared light from the disc around HD 181327, which lies about 150 light years from Earth.
They saw a peak in brightness at a wavelength of around 63 micrometres, which is characteristic of water ice.
"We now have evidence that the composition is similar to our Kuiper belt," said Chen.
The disc has a radius of about 12 billion kilometers, roughly twice the size of the Kuiper belt. It is also exceptionally bright, suggesting that it holds a lot of material, which indicates that the system may be swarming with comets.