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Weird Spiral Star Discovered —14-Billion-Miles Wide
Two spiral arms emerge from the gas-rich disk around SAO 206462, a young star in the constellation Lupus. This image, acquired by the Subaru Telescope and its HiCIAO instrument, is the first to show spiral arms in a circumstellar disk. The disk itself is some 14 billion miles across, or about twice the size of Pluto’s orbit in our own solar system.
This recent discovery of a star with spiral arms startled researchers using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii. SAO 206462 is more than four hundred light years from Earth in the constellation Lupus, the wolf.
Researchers strongly suspected that new planets might be coalescing inside the disk, which is about twice as wide as the orbit of Pluto. But when they took a closer look at SAO 206462 they found not planets, but arms. Astronomers have seen spiral arms before: they’re commonly found in pinwheel galaxies where hundreds of millions of stars spiral together around a common core. Finding a clear case of spiral arms around an individual star, however, is unprecedented.
The arms might be a sign that planets are forming within the disk.