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October 4 2012

Comet crystals found in a nearby planetary system


Pristine material that matches comets in our solar system have been found in a dust belt around the young star Beta Pictoris by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory.

Twelve-million-year-old Beta Pictoris resides just 63 light-years from Earth and hosts a gas giant planet along with a dusty debris disk that could, in time, evolve into a torus of icy bodies much like the Kuiper Belt found outside the orbit of Neptune in our solar system. Thanks to the unique observing capabilities of Herschel, the composition of the dust in the cold outskirts of the Beta Pictoris system has been determined for the first time.

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