The dusty new planetary systems. Photo: Thomas Esposito/UC Berkeley

A series of photos of young stars with disks of planet-forming debris around them shows the rich diversity of how distant worlds form in our galaxy.

Why it matters: Researchers have been piecing together how our solar system came to be for decades, but being able to look out at other stars with their own new systems of planets can help turn back the clock to understand the evolution of our solar system and others like never before.

What they found: Taken over the course of four years by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) in Chile, the photos represent some of the sharpest images of their kind yet taken.

  • Scientists are able to use these images to see gaps in the disks of debris around stars that represent newly forming planets clearing space for themselves in orbit.
  • The instrument captured 26 images of debris disks, and 25 of them had these holes that likely indicate planet formation around their stars.
  • 75 of the 104 stars GPI observed as part of the project had no disks that could be detected by the instrument, and three stars likely had protoplanetary disks, precursors to planetary formation, according to a statement from Berkeley.

The big picture: “If you dial back the clock for our own solar system by 4.5 billion years, which one of these disks were we?" Paul Kalas, one of the authors of the new study detailing the images, said in the statement.

  • "Were we a narrow ring, or were we a fuzzy blob?” Kalas said. “It would be great to know what we looked like back then to understand our own origins. That is the great unanswered question.”

Go deeper

Trump says Pentagon won't cut funding to 159-year-old newspaper, Stars and Stripes

The Pentagon. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images

President Trump announced Friday that the Defense Department "will NOT be cutting funding" to the military's historic independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Driving the news: The Pentagon had ordered the shutdown of the military's independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, despite objections by Congress, per the AP.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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What they're saying: Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sept. 26. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican lawmakers along with other leading political figures reacted to President Trump's Saturday afternoon nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: "President Trump could not have made a better decision," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States."