- Astronomers investigating whether young planets might be shaping disc
- Vision of 'early years' of young solar system
- Gas disc forming round SINGLE star
UPDATED: 05:27 EST, 8 May 2012
A 14-billion-mile-wide gas cloud is offering an incredible vision of the early years of a young solar system.
The star is 400 light years away from Earth, in the constellation Lupus, the wolf.
The young star, known as SAO 206462, is surrounded by a disc of gas 14billion miles across - and its gravitational pull has arranged the disc into two spiral arms.
The spiral arms forming has led astronomers to investigate whether young planets might be 'shaping' the disc of gas around the star.
Detailed computer simulations have shown us that the gravitational pull of a planet inside a circumstellar disk can perturb gas and dust, creating spiral arms,’ said Carol Grady, an astronomer with Eureka Scientific, Inc., who is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
‘Now, for the first time, we're seeing these dynamical features.’
The unprecedented phenomenon could suggest that gas and debris are being formed into planets orbiting the star.
The image was captured by the Subaru telescope, and eight-metre instrument perched on the summit of Mauna Kea, a volcano in Hawaii.
This unique viewpoint allows the telescope to get a clear view of the night sky.
Researcher John Wisniewski: 'What we're finding is that once these systems reach ages of a few million years — that’s young for a star - their discs begin to show all kinds of interesting shapes.
'We’ve seen rings, divots, gaps - and now spiral features. Many of these structures could be caused by planets moving within the discs.'