A young star observed by the Spitzer Space Telescope appears to be home to a wild — and young — planetary system that shares some of the frenetic dynamics thought to have shaped the early years of our own solar system.
The Spitzer observations suggest young planets circling the star are disturbing smaller comet-like bodies, causing them to collide and kick up a huge halo of dust.
The star, called HR 8799, became one of the first of two stars with planets that were directly imaged from Earth in November 2008. Ground-based telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory, both in Hawaii, took images of three planets orbiting in the far reaches of the system. Each of the three distant worlds is roughly 10 times the mass of Jupiter.