Bizarre disappearing space dust leaves astronomers stumped

Extrasolar planet

A team of astrophysicists has published a paper revealing that a huge disk of dust circling a star 450 light years from Earth has mysteriously disappeared.

Nothing like this has ever been seen in the many hundreds of stars that astronomers have studied for dust rings,” marvelled Benjamin Zuckerman, a co-author on the paper and astrophysicist professor at UCLA.

It’s as if the rings around Saturn had disappeared. This is even more shocking because the dusty disc of rocky debris was bigger and much more massive than Saturn’s rings. The disc around this star, if it were in our solar system, would have extended from the Sun halfway out to Earth, near the orbit of Mercury.

Adding to the air of mystery surrounding the discovery, director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics Norm Murray threw some prophesising words into the mix, saying: “The history of astronomy has shown that events that are not predicted and hard to explain can be game-changers.


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