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US astronomers discover primeval solar system

Scientists have discovered huge quantities of carbon gas mixed with a cloud of dust surrounding a young, yellow star that could resemble our own solar system at its inception.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2006 19:42 IST

Two US astronomers have discovered huge quantities of carbon gas mixed with a cloud of dust surrounding a young, yellow star that could resemble our own solar system at its inception, NASA said.

The star, called Beta Pictoris, and its emerging solar system in which planets could already be forming is less than 20 million years old, said the researchers who made their discovery with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite launched in 1999.

The abundance of carbon gas in the dust disk surrounding the star means that the planets being formed could be rich in graphite and methane much like those of our solar system in their early stages.

The research of the team of astronomers led by Aki Roberge, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Flight Centre, outside Washington, is published in today's issue of the British magazine Nature.

"There is much, much more carbon gas than anyone expected," Roberge was quoted as saying on the NASA website.

"Could this be what our own solar system looked like when it was young? Are we seeing the formation of new types of worlds? Either prospect is fascinating."

First discovered in 1984, Beta Pictoris is located in our galaxy, 60 light years from Earth and has been measured at 1.8 times the Sun's mass.

Images of Beta Pictoris taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope show it could have a Jupiter-type planet already and possibly also rocky planets in the course of formation, astronomers said.