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Planets may emerge from stellar duo gathering icy dust

Gas freezing onto grains could form comets or larger worlds

By
4:54pm, February 13, 2016
ring of carbon monoxide gas around a star

CONSTRUCTION AHEAD  A ring of carbon monoxide gas (blue) and dust (red) roughly 300 times as wide as Earth’s orbit encircles the binary star HD 142527 (not visible) in this composite image. The dust concentration might be a region where planetary building blocks are forming. 

WASHINGTON — A pair of stars is setting up an icy planetary construction zone, new data suggest. Carbon monoxide gas is freezing onto tiny dust grains orbiting the stellar duo. The frozen particles might eventually give rise to a population of comets or even a new planet.

A belt of gas and dust encircles the binary star HD 142527, about 450 light-years away in the constellation Lupus. Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile reveal a region of the belt where there is very little carbon monoxide compared with dust. The gas is probably condensing onto dust grains and building a reservoir of ice-encrusted particles, astrophysicist Andrea Isella reported February 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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