Photo: Nearby Star System Could Spawn Carbon-Rich Planets



In this artist's conception the young star Beta Pictoris glows at the center of a disk of gas and dust. This disk is produced by collisions between and evaporation of asteroids and comets. A giant planet may have already formed, and planets with land—terrestrial planets—may be forming.


A young terrestrial planet is shown colliding with an asteroid in the middle of the panel—a process by which a planet can add mass.



The inset panels show two possible outcomes for mature terrestrial planets around Beta Pictoris. At top is a water-rich planet similar to the Earth. At bottom is a carbon-rich planet with a smoggy, methane-rich atmosphere similar to that of Titan, a moon of Saturn.

Illustration courtesy NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook


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