A dying star gives birth to planets
Astronomers have long known that planets form in dusty disks around newborn stars. Now, researchers suspect that planets also can develop in debris disks surrounding exploded stars.
May 26, 2009
No one expected that the first planets discovered outside the solar system would be circling a stellar corpse. Yet that's exactly what radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail found in 1991 when they detected planets circling a pulsar designated PSR B1257+12. This pulsar — a neutron star that spins once every 6.22 milliseconds — formed when a star at least 8 times the Sun's mass exploded. The crushed remnant contains about 1.5 solar masses and measures about 10 miles (16 kilometers) across.
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)
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