Fomalhaut is one of the brightest stars in the night sky—and the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed belts of material orbiting the star in stunning detail.
Three nested, dusty debris belts extend out to 14 billion miles from the young star Fomalhaut. The inner belts are most likely carved out by the gravitational forces of unseen planets, as shown in this image from the James Webb Space Telescope, which blocks out the li…Show more
IMAGE BY NASA, ESA, CSA; IMAGE PROCESSING: ANDRÁS GÁSPÁR, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, AND ALYSSA PAGAN, STSCI
PUBLISHED MAY 8, 2023
• 9 MIN READ
A new image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has given scientists a stunning look at the dusty belts of debris surrounding a nearby star. Similar to the asteroid belt in our own solar system, these orbiting rings of shattered rock and ice can help reveal how planetary systems form.
The debris disks orbit Fomalhaut, a star that is younger and bigger than the sun, about 25 light-years from Earth. One of the brightest stars in the night sky, Fomalhaut glows in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus. While two belts had been observed around Fomalhaut before, the new image published today in the journal Nature Astronomy shows that three belts encircle the star.
“I don’t think anyone can look at that image and not think: Wow, that’s gorgeous,” says Alycia Weinberger, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study.