Organic ring around nearby star | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Organic ring around nearby star

12:56pm, February 18, 2008

Astronomers have known since 1991 that a ring of dust, a likely vestige of planet formation, surrounds the nearby star HR 4796A. Researchers now report the first evidence that the ring contains complex organic molecules.

Alycia Weinberger of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (D.C.) and her colleagues observed the ring with a near-infrared camera on the Hubble Space Telescope. Comparing those images with Hubble images made in visible light, the team showed that the dust scattered much more infrared light than visible light. And that's the same pattern displayed by a group of organic compounds called tholins.

Astronomers have found tholins in comets and the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan, but the new study provides the first strong evidence for the material outside the solar system, Weinberger's team says in the Feb. 1 Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content