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HubbleSite Spitzer and Hubble Capture Evolving Planetary Systems


Space Telescope Science

Two of NASA's Great Observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, have provided astronomers an unprecedented look at dusty planetary debris around stars the size of our sun. Spitzer has discovered for the first time dusty discs around mature, sun-like stars known to have planets. Hubble captured the most detailed image ever of a brighter disc circling a much younger sun-like star. The findings offer "snapshots" of the process by which our own solar system evolved, from its dusty and chaotic beginnings to its more settled present-day state.

Debris disks are composed of the shattered remnants of small bodies such as comets and asteroids that collided as they orbited the star. A similar, though much less dense cloud of dust orbits our Sun. Large, gaseous planets like Jupiter might already exist in such systems, while much smaller rocky planets like the Earth may be just starting to form.

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