Royalty-free NASA stock photo of microscopic crystals in a dusty disk, surrounding a brown dwarf failed star. The crystals are made up of olivine which is a green mineral found on Earth and are thought to help seed the formation of planets.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope detected the tiny crystals circling around five brown dwarfs, the cooler and smaller cousins of stars. Though crystallized minerals have been seen in comets and around other stars, the discovery represents the first time the little gem-like particles have been spotted around confirmed brown dwarfs.
Astronomers believe planets form out of disks of dust that circle young brown dwarfs and stars. Over time, the various minerals making up the disks crystallize and begin to clump together. Eventually, the clumps collide and stick, building up mass like snowmen until planets are born.
This observation of crystals, growing dust grains and flattened disks, provide strong evidence that the dust around these brown dwarfs is evolving into what might become planets. Prior to the findings, these first steps of planet formation were seen only in disks around stars, the brighter and bigger cousins to brown dwarfs.
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech [0003-0710-2021-3339] by 0003