Space.com — The latest observations of the odd planetary system revealed that the dusty debris disk surrounding the star Fomalhaut is much wider than previously thought. The debris belt spans a vast region of space between 14 billion and 20 billion miles (22.5 billion to 32.1 billion kilometers) around the star. Stranger still: The planet Fomalhaut b appears to approach with 4.6 billion miles (7.4 billion km) of its star at the closest point in its orbit, then swing way out to a point about 27 billion miles (43.4 billion km) away at the farthest point. Scientists call the extremes of such a planet’s path a highly eccentric orbit. Fomalhaut b’s path, scientists say, sends the planet crashing through the surrounding debris disk during its 2,000-year orbit around its parent star.
Jan 09 2013