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Interstellar
In the Beta Pictoris Disk
Artist´ conception of the view towards the young star Beta Pictoris from the outer edge of its disk. This disk of dust and gas orbiting the star is produced by collisions between and evaporation of asteroids and comets. A giant planet may have already formed and terrestrial planets may be forming. A young terrestrial planet gaining mass by collision with an asteroid is shown in the middle of the panel. The young terrestrial planet is dry, without an atmosphere. It will likely acquire one later from the impact of water (or other kind of ice)-rich asteroids.

Astronomers using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer telescope have found that the gas in the Beta Pictoris disk is extremely carbon-rich, much more so than expected based on what is known about asteroids and comets in the Solar System. The inset panels show two possible outcomes for mature terrestrial planets around Beta Pic. The top one is a water-rich planet similar to the Earth; the bottom one is a carbon-rich planet, with a smoggy, methane-rich atmosphere similar to that of Titan, a moon of Saturn. Credit:NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook
01/14/09

 



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