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November 2012 – DIAS Astronomers find clues to Successful Planet Formation around Failed Star

An international team of astronomers, including Aleks Scholz (DIAS) and Antonella Natta (DIAS/Arcetri Observatory), have found for the first time that the outer region of a dusty disc encircling a brown dwarf — a star-like object, but too small to shine brightly like a star — contains millimetre-sized solid grains like those found in thicker discs around newborn stars. The surprising finding suggests that our understanding of how rocky, Earth-scale planets form may be flawed, and that rocky planets may be more common in the Universe than expected. These findings are based on observations with the new ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter-Submillimeter Array). For more information, see the ESO press release.