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Hungarian-led intl research team makes discovery in young star’s planet-forming zone

An international research team led by Jozsef Varga of Budapest's Konkoly Thege Astronomy Institute has discovered a three-ringed structure in the planet-formation disk of a young Sun-like star that is similar to the zone where rocky planets formed in our Solar System.

The team discovered the rings around the star HD 144432, around 500 light years away, using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), the HUN-REN Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences said in a statement.

The research centre said the structure around HD 144432 was the most complex ring system around the inner region of a star’s planet-forming disk discovered so far. They said that when compared to the Solar System, the star’s most inner ring aligned with the orbit of Mercury, the middle one with that of Mars, and the outer ring corresponded roughly to the orbit of Jupiter.

They said the ring structure around HD 144432 potentially signified the presence of planets with masses comparable to Jupiter.

The team also said the composition of the ring system contained the most common building blocks of Earth-like rocky planets, such as magnesium, silicon and oxygen. This is also the first tangible evidence scientists have found for the presence of iron in the disks around young stars, they added.

The research team added that the iron-rich and carbon-poor dust around HD 144432 indicated that planet-forming disks with such a chemical composition were fairly common in the galaxy.

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