The X-ray outburst of a young, sunlike star may provide new insights about planet formation. The X-ray study dates to last January, when amateur astronomer Jay McNeill of Paducah, Ky., used a small telescope to discover a cloud of dust and gas in the Milky Way's Orion star-forming region. Other astronomers then found that a young sunlike star in the throes of a radiation-spewing tantrum had lit up the otherwise invisible cloud, dubbed McNeill's nebula.
That's when David A. Weintraub of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and his colleagues entered the picture. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the astronomers found that the star, V1647 Orionis, was a bright X-ray source in early March 2004 but had faded by the end of the month. In the July 22 Nature, Weintraub and his collaborators propose an intriguing mechanism to explain both the X rays and the visible-light outburst. Many rotating stars, including the sun, spew X rays when magnetic fields rooted at their sur