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News Release Archive:

News Release 694 of 958

January 7, 1998 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-1998-03

Astronomers Have Found a New Twist in a Suspected Proto-Planetary Disk

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

January 7, 1998: A telltale new warp uncovered in a vast, thin disk of dust encircling the star Beta Pictoris may be caused by the gravitational tug of a bypassing star or companion brown dwarf.

These conclusions are based on Hubble telescope pictures that reveal the dim outermost reaches of the disk, which are 7 billion miles from the central star. The top image presents the entire disk, which spans 140 billion miles edge-to-edge. An unusual flaring at the top of the right side of the disk reveals that dust has been pulled above the dense plane of the disk beyond what is observed on the left side. A detailed close-up view of the inner region of the disk [bottom picture] shows a warp in the disk. These new details support the presence of one or more planets orbiting the star.

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Credit: Al Schultz (CSC/STScI), Sally Heap (GSFC/NASA), and NASA