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PIA08040: Stellar Rubble May be Planetary Building Blocks April 8, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, NASA, Space Fotos.
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Stellar Rubble May be Planetary Building Blocks
Mission: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Spacecraft: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Product Size: 3200 samples x 2400 lines
Produced By: California Institute of Technology
Full-Res TIFF: PIA08040.tif (23.04 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA08040.jpg (721.1 kB)

Some debris, or ashes, from the supernova can be seen settling into a disk in orbit around the pulsar. This material never reached the velocity needed to escape the gravity of the pulsar, and can be thought of as falling back toward the star. The resulting “fallback disk” resembles protoplanetary disks around young stars, out of which planets are thought to form.

The pulsar observed by Spitzer, called 4U 0142+61, is13,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Cassiopeia. Its disk orbits about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away from it, and probably contains about 10 Earth-masses of material — only a few millionths of the mass of the material expelled in the supernova.

At the end of the movie, small asteroids begin to form within the disk. This first step towards planet formation might be happening in this system already.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech
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