The top view, taken by NASAs Hubble Space Telescope, is the first visible-light image of a dust ring around the nearby, bright young star Fomalhaut. The view at bottom points out important features in the image, such as the rings inner and outer edges. In order to image the faint ring, a coronagraph on Hubbles Advanced Camera for Surveys was used to eclipse the bright star, the position of which is indicated by a dot near the rings center. The center of the ring is about 1.4 billion miles away from the star. Astronomers believe that an unseen planet moving in an elliptical orbit is reshaping the ring.
Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas and J. Graham (University of California, Berkeley), and M. Clampin (NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center)
Dusty disk around Fomalhaut makes ideal laboratory for studying planet formation
Astronomers zooming in on a nearby star with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered unmistakable evidence of a planetary system: a perturbed dusty belt around the star that’s analogous to the vast Kuiper Belt of icy rocks encircling the sun.
While the discovery is expected to send astronomers scurrying to their telescopes to obtain direct images of a planet around the star, called Fomalhaut, it also provides a Rosetta stone for debris disks - the pancakes of rock and ice that form around new stars and coalesce into planets.
Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
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