Telescope Sees Building Blocks of Planet
telescope has detected for the first time the building blocks of planets around brown dwarfs, suggesting that such failed stars probably undergo the same planet-building process. Until now, the microscopic crystal building blocks that eventually collide to form planets have only been seen around stars and comets — considered the remnants of the solar system.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope recently spotted the tiny crystals and dust grains circling five brown dwarfs located 520 light years away in the Chamaeleon constellation. The crystals, composed of a green mineral commonly found on Earth known as olivine, are thought to be the building blocks of planets.
Brown dwarfs, like stars, form from thick clouds of gas and dust. But they collapse under their own weight and are considered the older and dimmer cousins to stars.
"We are learning that the first stages of planet formation are more robust than previously believed," said Daniel Apai, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Astronomers believe planets were born out of disks of dust that surround young stars and brown dwarfs. The particles that make up the disk eventually crystallize and clump together to form planets.