Contact: Douglas Pierce-Price
Caption: This artist's impression shows the disc of gas and cosmic dust around a brown dwarf. Rocky planets are thought to form through the random collision and sticking together of what are initially microscopic particles in the disc of material around a star. These tiny grains, known as cosmic dust, are similar to very fine soot or sand. Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have for the first time found that the outer region of a dusty disc encircling a brown dwarf -- a star-like object, but one too small to shine brightly like a star -- also contains millimeter-sized solid grains like those found in denser discs around newborn stars. The surprising finding challenges theories of how rocky, Earth-scale planets form, and suggests that rocky planets may be even more common in the Universe than expected.
Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/M. Kornmesser (ESO)
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Related news release: Even brown dwarfs may grow rocky planets