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Keck Telescopes Gaze into Young Star's "Life Zone"

The inner regions of young planet-forming disks offer information about how worlds like Earth form, but not a single telescope in the world can see them. Yet, for the first time, astronomers using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii have measured the properties of a young solar system at distances closer to the star than Venus is from our sun.

"When it comes to building rocky planets like our own, the innermost part of the disk is where the action is" - team member William Danchi at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Md.

Planets forming in a star's inner disk may orbit within its "habitable zone," where conditions could potentially support the development of life.

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Astronomers using the W. M. Keck Observatory have peered far into a young planetary system, giving an unprecedented view of dust and gas that might eventually form worlds similar to Jupiter, Venus or even Earth.

"Because the gas, dust and debris that orbit young stars provide the raw materials for planets, probing the inner regions of those stars lets us learn about how Earth-like planets form" - astronomer Sam Ragland of Keck Observatory. He and his collaborators recently measured the properties of a young planetary system at distances closer to the star than Venus is to the Sun.

The researchers used the Keck Interferometer, which combines the light-gathering power of both 10-meter Keck telescopes to act as an 85-meter telescope, much larger than any existing or planned telescope.

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V594 Cassiopeia

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