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Press Release 05-122
Dustiest Star Could Harbor a Young Earth

Rocky objects collide and make dust.

The thick dust shrouding BD +20 307 is thought to result from the collisions of rocky objects.
Credit and Larger Version

July 20, 2005

A young star located about 300 light-years away may greatly improve our understanding of the formation of Earth-like planets.

Known as BD +20 307, the object is shrouded by the dustiest environment ever seen so close to a Sun-like star—or at least, to such a star that has already passed through its earliest birth pangs. Indeed, astronomers believe the thick, warm dust clouds around BD +20 307 are quite new by galactic standards, and are being fed by ongoing collisions among rocky bodies that orbit the star at distances comparable to that between the Earth and Sun.

The findings, published in the July 21 issue of the journal, Nature, were based on observations done at the Gemini Observatory, which is partially funded by the National Science Foundation, and at the W.M. Keck Observatories. The observations support the idea that comparable collisions of rocky bodies occurred in our own solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, at a time when the Earth itself was forming. So, more discoveries of this sort would indicate the rocky planets and moons of our inner solar system are not as rare as some astronomers believe.

For more information, see the Gemini Observatory news release.


Media Contacts
M. Mitchell Waldrop, NSF, (703) 292-7752, mwaldrop@nsf.gov
Peter Michaud, Gemini Observatory, (808) 974-2510, pmichaud@gemini.edu

Principal Investigators
Inseok Song, Gemini Observatory, (808) 974-2609, isong@gemini.edu

Related Websites
Gemini Observatory: http://www.gemini.edu/
W. M. Keck Observatory: http://www2.keck.hawaii.edu/

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, its budget is $7.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 48,000 competitive proposals for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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The Zodiacal Light
The Zodiacal Light is produced by sunlight scattering from dust in our own solar system.
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