New Hubble image reveals planet's destructive path

Images released by NASA from the Hubble Telescope show a vast field of debris encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut and a mysterious planet circling it may provide forensic evidence of a massive planetary disruption in the system.

This false-colour composite image, taken with the Hubble Telescope, reveals the orbital motion of the planet Fomalhaut b Credit: NASA

The debris belt is much larger than astronomers had expected, spanning a section of space from 14 to nearly 20 billion miles from the star.

Even more surprisingly, the latest Hubble images have allowed a team of astronomers to calculate the planet follows an unusual elliptical orbit that carries it on a potentially destructive path through the vast dust ring.

Fomalhaut is a special system because it looks like scientists may have a snapshot of what our solar system was doing 4 billion years ago.