Hubble Catches a Dusty Moth
These near-infrared images, taken with the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, show the wing- shaped dust disk surrounding the young, nearby star HD 61005. Astronomers have dubbed the star system "The Moth" because the dust disk resembles the wings of the flying insect.
The Moth's wingspan extends about 22 billion miles from the star. The black disk in the center of the images represents the coronagraphic hole in the NICMOS camera that blocks most of the starlight so that astronomers can see details in the surrounding dust disk.
HD 61005 is about 100 million years old. Dust disks around stars of The Moth's age are typically flat structures where planets can form. These Hubble images show that some dust disks have some surprising shapes. HD 61005 appears to be plowing through a local patch of higher-density gas in the interstellar medium, causing material in the HD 61005's disk to be swept behind the star.
HD 61005 resides 100 light-years from Earth. NICMOS took these images in 2005 and 2006.
NASA, D. Hines (Space Science Institute, New Mexico Office in Corrales, New Mexico), and G. Schneider (University of Arizona)