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  Geotimes - December 2007 - Birth of a planet

Planetary Science
Birth of a planet

Image of a star’s debris disk
NASA, ESA, P. Kalas and J. Graham (University of California, Berkeley) and M. Clampin (NASA/GSFC)

Studying Hubble images of stars, astronomers think they have found three planet “embryos” that could represent a never-before-observed stage of planet formation. Using the thickness of a star’s debris disk — a dusty cloud of debris around a star that provides the building blocks for planet formation and grows “puffier” as incipient planets within the disk bump clumps of dust into increasingly eccentric orbits around the star — Alice Quillen of the University of Rochester in New York and colleagues determined three local stars, including Formalhaut pictured here, may contain Pluto-sized planets-to-be, the team reported in October’s Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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