Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 17, 1996
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Proplyds: Infant Solar Systems?
Credit: C.R. O'Dell (Rice U.), NASA,

Explanation: Are planets common in our galaxy? Strong evidence that the answer is "yes" was provided in this 1994 image made by the Hubble Space Telescope . A close-up of the Orion Nebulae, it reveals what seem to be disks of dust and gas surrounding newly formed stars. These fuzzy blobs, called "proplyds", appear to be infant solar systems in the process of formation. Of the five stars in this field which spans about 0.14 light years, four appear to have associated proplyds - three bright ones and one dark one seen in silhouette against the bright nebula. A more complete survey of 110 stars in the region found 56 with proplyds. If extra-solar planetary systems are common place, are there extra-terrestrial civilizations out there as well?

Tomorrow's picture: Jupiter's Auroras

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