In DepthAstronomy

Newborn exoplanet eyed for moons and rings

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 258
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6373.258

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Astronomers are staring at a nearby star in hopes of seeing a giant baby of a planet—perhaps accompanied by dust clouds, rings, or newborn moons—pass across its face. Last week, the newest and tiniest telescope joined the vigil, when the French-built PicSat rode into orbit on an Indian rocket. It will be able to continuously monitor the star, β Pictoris, until chances of seeing the once-in-20-year transit event diminish in a few months' time. Astronomers are fascinated by β Pictoris, a bright star just 63 light-years away, because it is a natural laboratory for how solar systems form given its age of only 24 million years—an infant in stellar terms.