Of all the things to lose track of, a stretch of space dust measuring hundreds of millions of miles across is surely one of the biggest.
Scientists are at a loss as to how an enormous ring of space dust – which could make up planets like ours – has disappeared from view around a star 450 light years (six trillion miles) away from Earth.
Astronomers have monitored the star, with the decidedly un-catchy name of TYC 8241 2652, for 25 years before the glowing dust started to fade away over a period of two-and-a-half years.
Now, telescopic images have confirmed the almost total disappearance of the dust cloud, reported in the scientific journal Nature.
‘So much dust orbiting so close to a young star implies that rocky planets similar to the terrestrial planets of our own solar system were in the process of forming around this star,’ lead researcher Ben Zuckerman of the University of California said.