This is an image of star HR 4796 in the constellation Centaurus. Two infrared wavelengths have been represented as light blue and red to make this picture. The disk of dust which is believed to have formed planets is seen in red here.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of JPL/NASA
WARNING! Planet Construction Zone Ahead!
News story originally written on April 27, 1998
Astronomers have found what appears to be another solar system
. Astronomers used the Keck II telescope in Hawaii to take pictures of a star called HR 4796 in the constellation Centaurus
. The images show a disk of dust around the star. This disk has an empty region in the middle that has been swept clean of material. Scientists think that in this empty area planets could be forming.
The HR 4796 star is 220 light years away from Earth. So there will be no visiting this other solar system any time soon! However, scientists will continue researching this star because what has been found there is of such significance in adding to our understanding of the formation of our own solar system.
"This may be what our solar system looked like at the end of its main planetary formation phase," said Dr. Michael Werner of JPL. "Comets may be forming right now in the disk's outer portion from remaining debris."
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Scientists believe that the solar system was formed when a cloud of gas and dust in space was disturbed, maybe by the explosion of a nearby star (called a supernova). This explosion made waves in space...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more