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Giant gas cloud found around distant star

  |   Dec. 8, 2003 at 3:40 PM
HILO, Hawaii, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Astronomers said Monday they have discovered a giant disk of glowing hydrogen more than half a light-year across orbiting around a young massive star.

The discovery is notable because such stellar disks usually are not considered hot enough to shine on their own.

The central star is only about 100,000 years old, compared with the sun's 5-billion-year-old estimated age. The glowing gas disk is huge -- about 1,000-times larger than Pluto's orbit, while the star already is more than 1,000-times more luminous than the sun.

"The disk is possibly being shocked by supersonic winds driven by the central star," said Chris Davis of the Joint Astronomy Center in Hawaii. The winds, traveling at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour, crash into the disk and heat the gas to thousands of degrees, he said.

Such disks are thought to be the birthplaces of planets, which condense out of the gas and dust. This disk has about 150 times the mass of the sun, which astronomers say is enough gas and dust to make about 100 sun-like stars or many thousands of planets.

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Editors: UPI photo WAS2003120801 is available

Topics: Chris Davis
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