Planet-Forming Disk Vanishes Into Thin Air
Some 460 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, a thick disk of dust swirled around a young star named TYC 8241 2652 1, where rocky planets like our own were arising. Then, in less than 2 years, the disk just vanished. Thatâ€™s the unprecedented observation astronomers report in a new study, out today. Even more intriguing: The same thing may have happened in our own solar system.
Born about 10 million years ago, the TYC 8241 2652 1 system was chugging along just fine before 2009. Its so-called circumstellar disk glowed at the infrared wavelength of 10 microns, indicating it was warm and lay close to a star â€” in the same sort of region that, in our own sunâ€™s neighborhood, gave rise to the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. The infrared data reveal that the dust was about 180Â°C and located as close to its star as Mercury is to the sun. By January 2010, however, nearly all infrared light from the dusty disk had vanished.