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Extrasolar maelstrom!

22 Oct 2011, 10:59 UTC
Extrasolar maelstrom!
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This week might be considered a red-letter period for discoveries relating to extrasolar planets, from imaging alien comets and their implications for otherworldly oceans to witnessing the dusty disks and primordial protoplanets of young, forming star systems.
In case you missed it, this week provides your healthy dose of Exoplanetology:
Very “Wet” Extrasolar System Found
Artist's concept, illustrating an icy planet-forming disk around the young star called TW Hydrae. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech )
The European Space Agency’s Herschel Telescope recently discovered direct evidence of cold water vapor surrounding the disk of dusty material surrounding a young star.
Whereas earlier studies had detected evidence of warmer water vapor within the material of young star systems, this is the first to extend this zone of water vapor into the cold regions extending far away from the parent star, TW Hydrae.
This finding is very significant to those searching for habitable planets or the life that might arise on them, as it bolsters the idea that comet-strewn planetary systems like our own (with water-rich inner planets) might be common in the galaxy.
Heavy Comet Bombardment Observed in Alien Solar System
Artist's concept, illustrating a storm of comets around nearby star Eta Corvi. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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