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Watching as Dusty Disks Slowly Turn Into Planets
NY Times ^ | December 21, 2004 | DENNIS OVERBYE

Posted on 12/21/2004 9:32:45 AM PST by neverdem

Astronomers think they know what goes into making a planetary system, namely dust - lots of it - swirling around a newly minted star.

So it has been encouraging that astronomers have detected and even photographed dusty disks around many nearby stars, and they have inferred the presence of more than 100 planets around other stars. But until recently they had never seen dust and planets around the same stars.

This month, astronomers said they had closed the loop.

New observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope of dusty disks around nearby stars, they said, had given them a snapshot of the entire sequence by which planets coagulate out of the primordial swirl and clear out the insides of the disks, turning them into doughnuts of far-flung dust.

Using Hubble, astronomers photographed thick disks of dust around a pair of young stars that might still be in the process of forming planets. Meanwhile, the Spitzer telescope trained on 26 stars known to harbor planets detected the infrared, or heat radiation, from dust surrounding 6 of the stars.

"Spitzer really closes the loop. It shows us the planets and the dust," Dr. Alycia Weinberger, a planetary expert at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said at a news conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the base for Spitzer's control team. Dr. Weinberger compared the new observations to seeing both a house and the bricks out of which the house had been made.

One team, led by Dr. David Ardila of Johns Hopkins University, used Hubble to photograph the disk of dust surrounding the star known as HD 107146, about 88 light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices.

The star is some 50 million to 250 million years old, young enough so that any rocky planets there may still be forming. This is the first time that a disk has been photographed around a star similar to our Sun, he said.

Viewed nearly face-on, it resembles a reddish doughnut with a hole large enough to contain the orbits of the planets in our own solar system, Dr. Ardila said.

"This picture," he said, "provides a context in which to study the history of our own solar system."

Another team, led by Dr. John Krist of the Space Telescope Science Institute, used Hubble to photograph a disk, seen edge-on, around a reddish dwarf star known as AU Microscopii. It, too, has a cleared-out space in the middle as big as the orbit of Uranus and hints of warping due perhaps to the gravitational pull of a planet.

A similar architecture has been deduced for the disks detected by the Spitzer telescope, which is designed to see long-wavelength infrared, or heat radiation, invisible to the eye.

From the relatively low temperatures of the dust, only about 50 degrees above absolute zero, the Spitzer team, led by Dr. Charles Beichman of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was able to conclude that the disks are all far from their stars. They are on the order of 10 times the distance of Earth from the Sun, but much thinner than the disks seen by Hubble around the younger stars.

All this fits, the astronomers said, with the idea that planets form out of thick disks of gas, gradually clearing them out. The pressure of starlight also blows dust out of the system, but the constant banging and colliding of planetoids creates new dust, which winds out in a thin outer doughnut.

"Young stars have huge reservoirs of planet-building material, while older ones have only leftover piles of rubble," Dr. Beichman said in a press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Hubble saw the reservoirs and Spitzer, the rubble."

Our own solar system, the astronomers pointed out, has a similar disk of junk, known as the Kuiper Belt, a band of icy debris on the fringes of our own solar system, as well as dust in the inner regions that gives rise to the zodiacal light. But none of this would be visible to Spitzer or Hubble, the astronomers say.

By correlating the details of the architecture of these systems with the planets that live there, and with future observations by more sensitive spacecraft, the astronomers said they hoped to find out more about what makes planetary systems tick.

"These new disks discovered by Spitzer have the potential to be our Rosetta stone," Dr. Weinberger said.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; US: California; US: District of Columbia; US: Maryland
KEYWORDS: astronomy; galaxies; hubbletelescope; lifeformsunderbed; planets; space; stars

Photographs by NASA/ESA
Top, a debris disk, more than 40 billion miles across, hovers around a star. Above, a debris disk encircles a star similar to our Sun.

1 posted on 12/21/2004 9:32:46 AM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Think of it, we are all made of stardust. What was that song from the sixties?


2 posted on 12/21/2004 9:33:55 AM PST by Thebaddog (Dawgs on the coffee table.)
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To: Thebaddog
What was that song from the sixties?

I'm clueless.

3 posted on 12/21/2004 9:35:56 AM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

Very cool. Thanks.


4 posted on 12/21/2004 9:36:16 AM PST by BikerNYC
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To: neverdem
And I thought watching grass grow was boring. Remember, a watched disk of galactic dust never congeals.
5 posted on 12/21/2004 9:36:50 AM PST by SampleMan ("Yes I am drunk, very drunk. But you madam are ugly, and tomorrow morning I shall be sober." WSC)
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To: petuniasevan

ping


6 posted on 12/21/2004 9:37:00 AM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

Great, there's planets forming under my bed.


7 posted on 12/21/2004 9:38:56 AM PST by Tijeras_Slim (I'm here because I'm not all there.)
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To: El Gato; JudyB1938; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; ..

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.


8 posted on 12/21/2004 9:40:22 AM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

Here's a great link:

http://fuse.pha.jhu.edu/~wolven/astronomy.html

Links to experiments, observatories, spacecraft and journals.


9 posted on 12/21/2004 9:44:52 AM PST by Conservative Canuck (The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness)
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To: neverdem
I'm clueless.

Takes a lot of courage to admit that!

10 posted on 12/21/2004 9:45:43 AM PST by OSHA (OSHA, the Grand Wizard and Chief Executive Fascist of FreeperWorld- Industries LLC)
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To: Thebaddog

Optimist: "We are all made of stardust."

Pessimiet: "We are all made of nuclear waste."


11 posted on 12/21/2004 9:47:41 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: neverdem

God works on....


12 posted on 12/21/2004 9:47:54 AM PST by onedoug
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To: neverdem
Astronomers think they know what goes into making a planetary system

Glad to hear they got this one figured out. Maybe tomorrow they can tell me with certainty whether or not it's going to rain down my way

13 posted on 12/21/2004 9:47:56 AM PST by tx_eggman ("All I need to know about Islam I learned on 09/11/01" - Crawdad)
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To: Thebaddog

Hoagie Carmichael, an Indiana native. Great version by Willie Nelson.


14 posted on 12/21/2004 9:48:43 AM PST by Military family member (Go Colts!)
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To: Conservative Canuck

Thanks for the link.


15 posted on 12/21/2004 9:49:55 AM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: Thebaddog

Loved that song!

"We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden"

Crosby Stills Nash and Young sang the Joni Mitchell song, “Woodstock”


16 posted on 12/21/2004 9:52:40 AM PST by Veto! (Opinions freely dispensed as advice)
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To: neverdem

NASA is in such a sorry state that the U.S. is unable to fulfill its contribution to the ISS, which will never be fully realized. The Space Shuttle program, once the totem of American technological prowess, is past its prime. No longer the leaders in space exploration perhaps the American people will be content to stay on the sidelines and watch. After all they have their Social Security, Welfare, Single Parent Programs and Food Stamps.


17 posted on 12/21/2004 9:58:14 AM PST by Madstrider (The right wing conspiracy isn't really so vast -- we just work overtime)
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To: neverdem
Our own solar system, the astronomers pointed out, has a similar disk of junk, known as the Kuiper Belt, a band of icy debris on the fringes of our own solar system, as well as dust in the inner regions that gives rise to the zodiacal light.

Zodiacal light? Astronomers are such poets.

Here's a NASA photo:


Zodiacal Light
Credit & Copyright: D. Malin
Explanation: Sometimes the sky itself seems to glow. Usually, this means you are seeing a cloud reflecting sunlight or moonlight. If the glow appears as a faint band of light running across the whole sky, you are probably seeing the combined light from the billions of stars that compose our Milky Way Galaxy. But if the glow appears triangular and near the horizon, you might be seeing something called zodiacal light. Pictured above, zodiacal light is just sunlight reflected by tiny dust particles orbiting in our Solar System. Many of these particles were ejected by comets. Zodiacal light is easiest to see in September and October just before sunrise from a very dark location.

18 posted on 12/21/2004 9:59:16 AM PST by Veto! (Opinions freely dispensed as advice)
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To: Thebaddog

Think of it, we are all made of stardust. What was that song from the sixties?

Try 1933, "Stardust" music by Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics by Mitchell Parish, a true classic of American music, as was Hoagy.


19 posted on 12/21/2004 10:00:31 AM PST by Big Digger (If you can keep your head when others are losing theirs, you must be a Republican)
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To: Veto!

Thanks for the pic and comment.


20 posted on 12/21/2004 10:01:49 AM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"

Great bumper sticker:

God spoke, and BANG! It happened.


21 posted on 12/21/2004 10:09:20 AM PST by The Spirit Of Allegiance (REMEMBER THE ALGOREAMO--relentlessly hammer on the TRUTH, like the Dems demand recounts)
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To: onedoug
.... what goes into making a planetary system, namely dust


Indeed....dust to dust


22 posted on 12/21/2004 10:18:26 AM PST by Zacs Mom ("In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Jefferson)
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To: Tijeras_Slim
Dusty Disks

I thought this was about a retired stripper...

23 posted on 12/21/2004 10:31:03 AM PST by talleyman (Merry Christmas! ("And God bless us every one!"))
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To: Conservative Canuck

bump


24 posted on 12/21/2004 10:46:52 AM PST by tom paine 2
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To: neverdem

bttt


25 posted on 12/21/2004 10:47:32 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Thebaddog
we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,

and we got to get our selves back to the garden

joni mitchell performed by crosby nash stills and young

26 posted on 12/21/2004 10:50:11 AM PST by Chode (American Hedonist - Dubya... F**K YEAH!!!)
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To: Chode
D'oh... the songs name was Woodstock
27 posted on 12/21/2004 10:51:14 AM PST by Chode (American Hedonist - Dubya... F**K YEAH!!!)
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To: Zacs Mom
Beautiful pic. Thank You.

Dust is molecular, which are combinations of atoms; and atoms of electrons - which are leptons - and protons, which are combinations of 3 quarks, up, up & down by their internal angular momentum....

Whereas in the fantastic multiplicative complexity of biology! despite increasingly serious attempts since the 1950s, we've yet to generate life.

Intimately related, equally mysterious, but that God would give us the ability to discern....

28 posted on 12/21/2004 12:02:28 PM PST by onedoug
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To: Tijeras_Slim

ROFL!


29 posted on 12/21/2004 12:03:46 PM PST by eleni121 (Best AG ever: John Ashcroft; Best Supreme Court Justice too)
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To: neverdem
Here's another article on the same thing at:

Space.com

and, another pic from that article..


30 posted on 12/21/2004 12:29:21 PM PST by Drammach (Freedom; not just a job, it's an adventure..)
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To: Drammach

Thanks for the link and pic.


31 posted on 12/21/2004 12:34:54 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: Big Digger; Thebaddog
From Hoagy to ...

space.com had a poll last week for the worst space songs.

The losers are:

'NSYNC:TRACK: Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)
Roberta Kelly:TRACK: Zodiacs
G Love:TRACK: Astronaut
A Sentient Event:TRACK: Blame It On The Comet
Lucia Pamela:ALBUM: Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela
David Cortopassi:ALBUM: Pharoah of Mars
Hot Gossip:TRACK: I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper
MC 900 Ft Jesus:TRACK: New Moon
Jamiroquai:ALBUM: The Return of the Space Cowboy
Spiritualized:TRACK: Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space

Here's the link: http://www.space.com/entertainment/spacebox/spacebox_rank.php?order=asc

32 posted on 12/21/2004 12:57:12 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Veto!

I'm having a good time tonight thinking about Christmas and where we came from. My kids are yelling at me and the music is good. We are all stardust and it can't be any better than this. Is Sartre anywhere to be found?


33 posted on 12/21/2004 4:43:19 PM PST by Thebaddog (Dawgs on the coffee table.)
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To: RightWhale; Brett66; xrp; gdc314; sionnsar; anymouse; RadioAstronomer; NonZeroSum; jimkress; ...

34 posted on 12/21/2004 4:45:47 PM PST by KevinDavis (Let the meek inherit the Earth, the rest of us will explore the stars!)
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To: RadioAstronomer

Isn't this the same process, but on a larger scale, that we are seeing with the rings around Saturn, Jupiter?

There appear to be moons being formed from the dust of the rings.


35 posted on 12/21/2004 5:22:48 PM PST by UCANSEE2 (>The government of our country was meant to be a servant of the people, not a master.)
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