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News Release Archive:

News Release 654 of 959

February 9, 1999 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-1999-05

Vast Stellar Disks Set Stage for Planet Birth in New Hubble Images

A Space Science Update Release

February 9, 1999: Dramatic pictures of eerie disks of dust encircling young stars are giving astronomers a new look at what may be the early formative stages of planetary systems.

Although these pictures from the Hubble telescope don't show planets, the edge-on disks seen by the telescope provide some of the clearest views to date of potential planetary construction zones, say researchers. The images also offer a peek at what happened 4.5 billion years ago when the Earth and other planets in our solar system began to condense out of a pancake-shaped disk of dust and gas centered on the young Sun. These images were taken by Hubble's infrared camera. All of the objects in these pictures are extremely young stars, buried in the centers of these pictures. The wisps of material surrounding the young stars are glowing from reflected starlight.

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Photo Credit: D. Padgett (IPAC/Caltech), W. Brandner (IPAC), K. Stapelfeldt (JPL) and NASA