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Double disks

1:38pm, July 25, 2006

Astronomers have confirmed that the nearby star Beta Pictoris has two disks of dust orbiting it, each of which contains debris that's probably the remnants of planet formation. The disks orbit the star at slightly different inclinations, an indication that if Beta Pictoris harbors unseen planets, they circle the star in more than one plane.

Scientists first imaged a single debris disk around Beta Pictoris in 1985. A decade later, the Hubble Space Telescope found an apparent warp in the disk. Researchers have suggested that this warp is actually a second dust disk, tilted at about 4° from the main disk (SN: 10/9/04, p. 227: Planet Signs? Sifting a dusty disk).

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