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Posted: 10/19/2004 8:38:18 AM EDT
LOS ANGELES - The Spitzer Space Telescope's examination of hundreds of stars has found evidence that the time it takes to form an Earth-sized planet may last hundreds of millions of years — much longer than previously thought.

The telescope revealed dust rings around nearby stars that couldn't have survived long unless violent collisions between gigantic chunks of rock were replenishing them, scientists said during a news conference Monday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Scientists have long believed that planets are formed when the dust in a disclike formation around a young star begins to clump. Some of the clumps eventually grow to the size of mountains, and these smash into each other, where some of the matter is absorbed to create a larger embryonic planetoid.

These, in turn, collide with each other, creating more dust and rocky chunks that keep smashing into each other. In some theories, this brutal stage of planet growth lasts perhaps 10 million years or so — an eye blink in astronomical terms. Then there is a long, steady, quieter cleanup period in which the unused dust dissipates.

Link Posted: 10/19/2004 8:43:03 AM EDT

Straight skinny
Link Posted: 10/19/2004 8:43:10 AM EDT
sounds neat.

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