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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Spitzer Finds Hints of Planet Birth Around Dead Star

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via PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has uncovered new evidence that planets might rise up out of a dead star's ashes.

Spitzer surveyed the scene around a pulsar, the remnant of an exploded star. The infrared telescope found a surrounding disk made up of debris shot out during the star's death throes. The dusty rubble in this disk might ultimately stick together to form planets.

This is the first time scientists have detected planet-building materials around a star that died in a fiery blast.

"We're amazed that the planet-formation process seems to be so universal,"said Deepto Chakrabarty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, principal investigator of the new research. "Pulsars emit a tremendous amount of high energy radiation, yet within this harsh environment we have a disk that looks a lot like those around young stars where planets are formed," he added.

The paper on the Spitzer finding appears in the April 6 issue of Nature.O ther authors of the paper are lead author Zhongxiang Wang and co-author David Kaplan , both of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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