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News Release 08-045

A Planet in Progress?

Astrophysicists observe a circumstellar disk with telltale signs of planet formation

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Coronographic image of polarized light around the star AB Aurigae.

Coronographic image of polarized light around the star AB Aurigae, which shows the distribution of dust in the inner part of a complex disk of material around the star. The middle region is shaded to block out light from the star. The upper right inset is a blow-up of the depleted region of dust. This depleted region and the denser clumps near the ends of the white guide lines seem to indicate the formation of a small body within the depleted region. The scale of the image is indicated by the arrow, which corresponds to about 300 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. The adaptive optics and coronography technology used for this research demonstrates the capability of the Gemini Planetary Imager, scheduled to become operational in late 2010 on the 8m Gemini South Telescope.

Credit: The Lyot Project

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