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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.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.