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James Webb Finds Three Asteroid Belts 25 Light-Years From Earth

The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed details of the structure of the first asteroid belt found outside the solar system. It is located around the star Fomalhaut, 25 light years from Earth.

Fomalhaut is surrounded by three belts, stretching for about 23 billion kilometers – this is almost 150 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. New observations from the telescope show that the rings are more complex than the Kuiper belt, the solar system’s second asteroid belt.

Dust belts are debris from collisions of larger bodies, similar to asteroids and comets, and are often referred to as “debris disks”. These belts are most likely formed by the gravitational forces of the invisible planets.  Similarly, inside our solar system, Jupiter surrounds the asteroid belt, the inner edge of the Kuiper belt is formed by Neptune. The researchers believe that further observations will help gain insights into the location and size of the planets within the distant system.

In the future, astronomers hope to image Fomalhaut-like debris disks around other stars using Webb.

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