Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spiral Dust Clouds May Reveal Alien Planets

An image of the disk around SAO 206462 captured with HiCIAO. A coronagraph blocks the direct light of the central star, which appears as the black, circular area in the image. Arrows show the two arms of the spiral structure around the star. 

 

Astronomers may have found a way to detect alien worlds embedded in rings of dust around distant stars.

Newborn stars often have clouds of leftover gas and dust around them that condense into rings called protoplanetary disks. Eventually, under the pull of gravity, the material in these disks may clump together to form orbiting planets.

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