Excerpt from voicechronicle.com
With the aid of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the astronomers have captured the most detailed picture of the large disk of gas and dust surrounding Beta Pictoris, the 20 million-year-old star. It is the only star detected by astronomers which has an embedded giant planet in the debris disk. Discovered in the year 2009, the planet orbits the star once every 18 to 20 years. Thus the scientists studied, in a comparatively short span of time, the impact of a huge planet on the massive gas and dust encircling the star. The study would help to have a better understanding about the birth of planets around young stars.
In the new image, captured by Hubble in the visible light in 2012, the disk can be spotted within 650 million miles of the star. The giant planet orbits the star at a distance of 900 million miles. It was imaged by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in infrared light six years ago. The new image was compared with Hubble images taken in 1997 and it was found that over 15 years, the dust distribution of the disk has barely changed.
The disk was easily visible and unusually bright owing to a huge amount of starlight-scattering dust. Beta Pictoris is also situated closer to earth than any other known disk systems, at a distance of 63 light-years. Although Hubble has observed about two-dozen light-scattering circumstellar disks, Beta Pictoris is the best example of a young planetary system. Beta Pictoris disk is exceptionally dusty which might be due to a recent major collision among unseen planet and asteroid sized objects, embedded in the disk.