Astronomers may have found a way to detect alien worlds embedded in rings of dust around distant stars.
Newborn stars often have clouds of leftover gas and dust around them that condense into rings called protoplanetary disks. Eventually, under the pull of gravity, the material in these disks may clump together to form orbiting planets.
A team of astronomers captured detailed images of the disk around young star SAO 206462, about 460 light-years away in the constellation Lupus. For their observations, they used the HiCIAO camera on Japan‘s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, which is designed to block out harsh central starlight that would normally make it difficult to detect fainter nearby objects, such as a disk around a star.
The disk around SAO 206462 is an impressive 12.4 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) in radius, a distance aboutfivetimeslarger