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Dusty Disks May Reveal Hidden Worlds

On the trail of extrasolar planets

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11:46am, April 30, 2002

Like a crab scuttling through sand, an orbiting planet leaves a telltale trail in the dust surrounding its parent star. Astronomers began scouring nearby stars for such trails nearly 2 decades ago, but telescopes provided only fuzzy images. With the keen-sighted instruments available today, however, the dust trails are coming into sharper focus, opening the way to finding and characterizing the properties of hundreds of planets beyond the solar system.

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