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FUSE finds evidence of swarm of comets around young star
Posted: Thu, Aug 16, 2001, 11:02 AM ET (1502 GMT)
Beta Pictoris image from ESO A nearby young star may be surrounded by millions of comets, astronomers announced this week. In a paper published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, American and French scientists released evidence from NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) spacecraft that indicates the star Beta Pictoris may have a cloud of comets analogous to our solar system's Kuiper Belt. That conclusion came after astronomers were unable to detect the absorption of ultraviolet light by molecular hydrogen in the gas and dust cloud that surrounds the star. That hydrogen may instead be locked up in comets in the form of water ice, along with other compounds, like carbon monoxide. Previous observations of Beta Pictoris by other spacecraft had detected evidence for molecular hydrogen; the new results suggest the hydrogen may not be evenly distributed but instead concentrated in "clumps" that could be left over from failed protoplanets.
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