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News Release 638 of 959

June 2, 1999 01:30 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1999-21

Hubble Picture Adds to Planet-Making Recipe

June 2, 1999: The Hubble telescope has snapped a nearly face-on view of a swirling disk of dust and gas surrounding a developing star called AB Aurigae. The image, taken in visible light by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, shows unprecedented detail in the disk, including clumps of dust and gas that may be the seeds of planet formation.

Normally, a young star's bright light prevents astronomers from seeing material closer to it. That's why astronomers used a coronograph in these two images of AB Aurigae to block most of the star's glare. The rest of the disk material is illuminated by light reflected from the gas and dust surrounding the star. The image on the left represents the best ground-based coronographic observation of AB Aurigae. The star resides in a region of dust clouds ? the semicircular-shaped material to the left of the star. The Hubble telescope image on the right shows a windowpane-shaped occulting bar. The illuminated material surrounding the star is the dust disk.

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Credit: C.A. Grady (National Optical Astronomy Observatories, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), B. Woodgate (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), F. Bruhweiler and A. Boggess (Catholic University of America), P. Plait and D. Lindler (ACC, Inc., Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Clampin (Space Telescope Science Institute), and NASA