Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

April 23, 1998

Three Dusty Stars
Credit: W. Holland (JAC) et al.

Explanation: These separate radio images reveal three dusty debris disks surrounding three bright, young, nearby stars - evidence for solar systems in formation. From left to right are the stars Fomalhaut, Beta Pictoris, and Vega, their positions indicated by star symbols. The false color maps show the intensity of submillimeter radio emission from the surrounding dust. Next to each dust "disk", a vertical bar illustrates the present size of our own solar system. These observations are likely examples of what our solar system would have looked like to distant radio astronomers when it was only a few hundred million years old! Astronomers speculate that bright blobs of emission near Vega and Beta Pictoris may represent dust clouds around developing giant planets. The radio images were made using detectors cooled to near absolute zero and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.

Tomorrow's picture: Celebrating With Saturn

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.