A Star's Spiral

  • Released Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM

NASA-supported researchers using a Japanese telescope in Hawaii have taken the first clear image of a rare sight: a star surrounded by a spiral-armed disk. Telescope images have shown hints of stars with spiral disks before. The clarity of this new image, however, is allowing researchers to study what causes this kind of spiral. Rings called circumstellar disks—composed of gas, dust and an accumulation of small objects—surround some stars. If the ring contains planets, their gravitational pull could alter its circular form and create the spiral arms. These videos take a closer look at the new image of star SAO 206462 and raise the question of whether orbiting planets, or something else entirely, created this curious shape.

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Please give credit for this item to:
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Image of Mauna Kea summit courtesy of Subaru Telescope, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)