Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK


Sci/Tech

Planetary 'missing link' found

A Hubble image of the Orion stellar nursery

By our Science Editor David Whitehouse

Clouds of dust around a young star are beginning to form into planets say astronomers.

Although scientists believe they know in broad outline how planets are formed out of gas and dust that surround some young stars there is still a lot of detail that is not understood.

New observations of three stars may have filled some of the gaps about how planets form. Henry Throop of the University of Colorado at Boulder believes that he may have found a "birthing star".


[ image: A dust disk around a
A dust disk around a "birthing star"
It may be a previously unseen stage in the formation of planets - the link between space dust and large planets.

The stars are 1500 light years distant in a stellar nursery called the Orion nebula. Hubble Space Telescope images of some of the new-born stars in this region have revealed discs of large particles around them.

The particles are about 100 times larger than normal space dust and have apparently grown by the accumulation of smaller grains.

"This is the first time scientists have been directly able to see the accretion process in the formation of planets," said Mr Throop.

When stars forms from a cloud of gas and dust they ignite when the temperature and pressure inside them become great enough for nuclear reactions to occur.

Left around the young star is a disc of leftover gas and dust that can form into planets.

According to Larry Esposito, another astronomer involved in the project: "This is the first direct confirmation that dust particles surrounding young stars are beginning to grow into planets."



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Sci/Tech Contents


Relevant Stories

22 Sep 98 | Sci/Tech
The search for New Worlds

25 Jun 98 | Sci/Tech
Planet found orbiting nearby star

21 Apr 98 | Sci/Tech
Astronomers find planets 'being formed'





Internet Links


Hubble Space Telescope


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer