For Release: 2:00 p.m. (EDT) April 26, 2001

'Survivor' Planets: Astronomers Witness First Steps of Planet Growth - And Destruction

Planet formation is a hazardous process. New pictures from the Hubble telescope are giving astronomers the first direct visual evidence for the growth of planetary "building blocks" inside the dusty disks of young stars in the Orion Nebula, a giant "star factory" near Earth. But these snapshots also reveal that the disks are being "blowtorched" by a blistering flood of ultraviolet radiation from the region's brightest star, making planet formation extremely difficult.

Credits: NASA, J. Bally (University of Colorado, Boulder, CO), H. Throop (Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO), C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN)


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