Latest Debris disk Stories

2008-11-13 15:40:00

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis (the Southern Fish). Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite...

2007-07-24 12:50:00

How many stars does it take to "raise" a planet? In our own solar system, it took only one -- our Sun. However, new research from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows that planets might sometimes form in systems with as many as four stars. Astronomers used Spitzer's infrared vision to study a dusty disk that swirls around a pair of stars in the quadruple-star system HD 98800. Such disks are thought to give rise to planets. Instead of a smooth, continuous disk, the telescope detected gaps...

2007-07-19 11:26:46

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope and W. M. Keck Observatory have found a lopsided debris disk around a young star known as HD 15115. As seen from Earth, the edge-on disk resembles a needle sticking out from the star. Astronomers think the disk's odd imbalanced look is caused by dust following a highly elliptical orbit about the star. The lopsided disk may have been caused by the gravity of planets sweeping up debris in the disk or by the gravity of a nearby star. The observations...

2007-01-07 15:47:23

New observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have begun to fill gaps in the early stages of planet birth. Hubble observed a "blizzard" of particles in a disk around a young star revealing the process by which planets grow from tiny dust grains. The particles are as fluffy as snowflakes and are roughly ten times larger than typical interstellar dust grains. They were detected in a disk encircling the 12-million-year-old star AU Microscopii. The star is 32 light-years away in the...

2006-10-10 00:35:00

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, in collaboration with ground-based observatories, has provided definitive evidence for the existence of the nearest extrasolar planet to our solar system. The Jupiter-sized world orbits the Sun-like star Epsilon Eridani, which is only 10.5 light-years away (approximately 63 trillion miles). The planet is so close it may be observable by Hubble and large ground-based telescopes in late 2007, when the planet makes its closest approach to Epsilon Eridani during...

2006-09-29 18:45:00

With the VISIR instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have mapped the disc around a star more massive than the Sun. The very extended and flared disc most likely contains enough gas and dust to spawn planets. It appears as a precursor of debris discs such as the one around Vega-like stars and thus provides the rare opportunity to witness the conditions prevailing prior to or during planet formation. "Planets form in massive, gaseous and dusty proto-planetary discs that...

2006-06-27 14:30:00

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revealed not one but two dust disks circling the nearby star Beta Pictoris. The images confirm a decade of scientific speculation that a warp in the young star's dust disk may actually be a second inclined disk, which is evidence for the possibility of at least one Jupiter-size planet orbiting the star. The disk is fainter than the star because, at the visible wavelengths measured, its dust only reflects light. To see the faint disk, astronomers used Hubble's...

2006-06-07 18:05:00

Scientists using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have discovered abundant amounts of carbon gas in a dusty disk surrounding a young star named Beta Pictoris. The star and its emerging solar system are less than 20 million years old, and planets may have already formed. The abundance of carbon gas in the remaining debris disk indicates that Beta Pictoris' planets could be carbon-rich worlds of graphite and methane, or the star's environs might resemble our own solar...

2006-01-19 11:57:41

NASA -- These two bright debris disks of ice and dust appear to be the equivalent of our own solar system's Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune and the source of short-period comets. The disks encircle the types of stars around which there could be habitable zones and planets for life to develop. The disks seem to have a central area cleared of debris, perhaps by planets. The new disks, each about 60 light-years from Earth, bring to nine the number of dusty debris...

2005-12-17 18:25:00

NASA -- Astronomers have found a debris disk around a sun-like star that may be forming or has formed its terrestrial planets. The disk - a probable analog to our asteroid belt - may have begun a solar-system-scale demolition derby, where the rocky remains of failed planets collide chaotically. "This is one of a very rare class of objects that may give us a glimpse into what our solar system may have looked like during the formation of our terrestrial planets," said Dean C. Hines of the...

Word of the Day
  • The ragged surface of a lava-flow.
'Malpais' translates from Spanish as 'bad land.'