Astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope have released the most detailed picture ever taken of a circumstellar debris disk viewed edge-on. It's the only picture we have of a protoplanetary disk with an actual planet orbiting within it.
Huge disks of dust and gas encircle many young stars. Some contain circular gaps — likely the result of forming planets carving out cavities along their orbital paths — that make the disks look more like ripples in a pond than flat pancakes.
There's a solar system close to here that hosts an unusually active debris field, one in which a comet is annihilated every five minutes. Astronomers say it could be the result of gravitationally trapped debris — or the catastrophic collision between two planets the size of Mars.
After 10 years of painstaking development, the Gemini Planet Imager has returned its first image of a distant exoplanet. Behold Beta Pictoris b, a massive planet several times larger than Jupiter — and over 63 light-years from Earth.