Orbiting around stars far, far away is…sand. Astronomers have found sandy particles circling a pair of stars about 2400 light years from us. And they think they might be seeing the very beginnings of the formation of an earth-like planet. The researchers reported their findings online in the journal Nature.
The sandy stuff is orbiting the stars at about the same distance from them as the earth orbits around the sun. The stars are babies themselves. They’re called KH-15D and they’re only 3 million years old, compared with our sun’s mature 4.5 billion years. They’re in the constellation Monoceros in the Cone Nebula. Other studies of particles around distant stars relied on infrared heat data. But astronomers in this research were able to observe reflected light from the sand itself.
Study coauthor Christopher Johns-Krull, from Rice University said, "Precisely how and when planets form is an open question. We believe the disk-shaped clouds of dust around newly formed stars condense, forming microscopic grains of sand that eventually go on to become pebbles, boulders and whole planets."