New images showcasing a primordial planet plowing through the debris disk around the young star Beta Pictoris have been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, as per the statement made by NASA. Beta Pictoris is about 20 million years old. In 2009, a massive exoplanets was spotted orbiting the young star every 18 to 20 years at a distance of 900 million miles.
The images were captured in 2012 in visible light with the help of Hubble's Imaging Spectrograph. Coronagraphic imaging mode of the device was used which impedes the glare of the star, making the surrounding disk visible. Beta Pictoris was identified first among the stars which are surrounded by a debris disk. It was discovered in the year 1984 and since then Hubble has observed about two dozen similar disks encompassing other stars. Beta Pictoris has also grabbed the attention of astronomers as it is located only 63 light-years away, closer than other disk systems. Moreover, the disk of this young star is visible edge-on from Earth and is unusually bright owing to the huge quantities of dust which scatters starlight. This makes the observation of Beta Pictoris quite easier.
In the new images, captured by Hubble, the disk can be seen within 650 million miles of Beta Pictoris. The images have also been compared with the images taken by Hubble in 1997. The comparison revealed that over 15 years, the distribution of dust in the disk has changed very little and there are no major gaps in the disk. The disk of Beta Pictoris contains vast amounts of dust probably because of the recent collisions among the undetected planets and asteroids. An especially bright body of dust can be spotted in the southwestern aspect of the disk which is possibly the debris left from an immense collision which destroyed an object having the size of Mars.
Daniel Apai of the University of Arizona, Tucson mentioned "Some computer simulations predicted a complicated structure for the inner disk due to the gravitational pull by the giant planet. The new images reveal the inner disk and confirm the predicted structures." Apai added "This finding validates models that will help us to deduce the presence of other exoplanets in other disks."