The case of the vanishing planet-forming disk

Artist’s conception of circumstellar disk around the star TYC 8241 2652 1, which then vanished in less than two years.
Credit: Gemini Observatory / AURA / Lynette Cook

Planetary disks, also known as circumstellar disks, are huge disk-shaped clouds of gas and dust where planets form around a star. Our own solar system began the same way, as over billions of years, material in the disk coalesced into larger and larger clumps, eventually becoming the planets and moons we see today.

Many such disks have been observed by astronomers, with the characteristics of them thought to be fairly well understood, but then came a surprise – one of the disks had disppeared in less than two years. What could have caused this?

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