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NASA | Spiral Arms Point to Possible Planets in a Star's Dusty Disk

Simulations of young stellar systems suggest that planets embedded in a circumstellar disk can produce many distinctive structures, including rings, gaps and spiral arms. This video compares computer simulations of hypothetical systems to the Subaru image of SAO 206462. A new image of the disk of gas and dust around a sun-like star is the first to show spiral-arm-like structures. These features may provide clues to the presence of embedded but as-yet-unseen planets. The newly imaged disk surrounds SAO 206462, an 8.7-magnitude star located about 456 light-years away in the constellation Lupus. Astronomers estimate that the system is only about 9 million years old. The gas-rich disk spans some 14 billion miles, which is more than twice the size of Pluto's orbit in our own solar system. The Subaru near-infrared image reveals a pair of spiral features arcing along the outer disk. Theoretical models show that a single embedded planet may produce a spiral arm on each side of a disk. The structures around SAO 206462 do not form a matched pair, suggesting the presence of two unseen worlds, one for each arm. This video is public domain and can be downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?10847 Like our videos? Subscribe to NASA's Goddard Shorts HD podcast: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/iTunes/f0004_index.html Or find NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NASA.GSFC Or find us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NASAGoddard
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