D. ERMAKOFF / EURELIOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY D. ERMAKOFF / EURELIOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Beta Pictoris: candidate solar system. Coloured infrared image showing a disc of dust around the star Beta Pictoris. The central region of the image has been blanked off to prevent over- exposure by the star itself. Beta Pictoris is about 50 light years from Earth. The material surrounding it is a mixture of gas and silicate dust, potential building blocks of planets. Research published in 1995 described variations in the brightness of Beta Pictoris; explanations for this include the possible existence of at least one large planet around the star, or the formation of planetesimals (small rocky precursors to planets).
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