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Beta Pictoris is one of the most ideal targets for studying planet formation. The young 23 Myr system consists of a bright central star (easily visible with the naked eye) surrounded by a edge-on debris disk composed of dust and gas. The system has also been photographed repeatedly with direct imaging (discovery paper) which has revealed the presence of a giant planet which we see moving here (the star …

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Our new paper is out today on the first detection of nitrogen in the famous planetary system: β Pictoris. The debris disc surrounding β Pictoris has a gas composition rich in carbon and oxygen, relative to solar abundances. Two possible scenarios have been proposed to explain this enrichment: 1. The gas being naturally rich in C and O. 2. Radiation pressure from the star expels the gas outwards, leaving …

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Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA.

This summer will be the first time that we’ll be able to observe the Hill sphere of a directly imaged exoplanet as it passes in front of its host star! The exoplanet, Beta Pictoris b, is a young (~20 million years old) planet orbiting the star beta Pictoris. Here is an image showing the planet photographed in 2003 and then later in 2009: As chance would have it, we see …

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