Hubble photo of a star can help scientists study how planets are born

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Mariella Moon
February 20th, 2015
In this article: betapictoris, hubble, nasa, space
Hubble photo of a star can help scientists study how planets are born

The Hubble telescope has already taken a picture of the Beta Pictoris, a 20-million-year-old star surrounded by a large disk of dust and gas located 63.4 light years from our solar system, back in 1997. But in 2009, scientists discovered a giant planet orbiting that star once every 18 to 20 years -- the first planet they've ever seen that's embedded in a debris disk. So in 2012, they used the Hubble again to take a clearer picture of the star in visible light, which they've just released to the public. The image reveals that the disk has barely changed since 1997 and that the giant planet's gravity has distorted its inner part.

Due to this debris disk, the Beta Pictoris is a great example of what a young solar system looks like. All those rocks and gas, which are also the biggest source of interstellar meteoroids in our system, could be forming more new planets, and thus could lead to new insight on how planets are born.

[Image Credit: NASA, ESA, University of Arizona]

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