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News Release 82 of 217

June 27, 2006 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-25

Hubble Reveals Two Dust Disks Around Nearby Star Beta Pictoris

June 27, 2006: Detailed images of the nearby star Beta Pictoris, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, confirm the existence of not one but two dust disks encircling the star. The images offer tantalizing new evidence for at least one Jupiter-size planet orbiting Beta Pictoris.

The finding ends a decade of scientific speculation that an odd warp in the young star's debris disk may actually be another inclined disk. The recent Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys view – the best visible-light image of Beta Pictoris – clearly shows a distinct secondary disk that is tilted by about 4 degrees from the main disk. The secondary disk is visible out to roughly 24 billion miles from the star, and probably extends even farther, said astronomers. This Hubble image of Beta Pictoris clearly shows a primary dust disk and a much fainter secondary dust disk. Astronomers used the Advanced Camera’s coronagraph to block out the light from the bright star.

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Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Golimowski (Johns Hopkins University), D. Ardila (IPAC), J. Krist (JPL), M. Clampin (GSFC), H. Ford (JHU), and G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick) and the ACS Science Team