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No Planets Needed: NASA Study Shows Disk Patterns Can Self-Generate

11 Jan 2018, 19:15 UTC
No Planets Needed: NASA Study Shows Disk Patterns Can Self-Generate NASA/Hubble/Konishi et al. 2016

When exoplanet scientists first spotted patterns in disks of dust and gas around young stars, they thought newly formed planets might be the cause. But a recent NASA study cautions that there may be another explanation — one that doesn’t involve planets at all. Exoplanet hunters watch stars for a few telltale signs that there might be planets in orbit, like changes in the color and brightness of the starlight. For young stars, which are often surrounded by disks of dust and gas, scientists look for patterns in the debris — such as rings, arcs and spirals — that might be caused by an orbiting world.

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