Beta Pictoris

Star with dust disk in Pictor

[Beta Pic ESO image]
Right Ascension 05 : 47 : 17.1 (h:m:s)
Declination -51 : 03 : 59 (deg:m)
Distance 78 (ly)
Visual brightness 3.85 (mag)
Spectral type A5V

This star, at its 78 (or perhaps only 50) light years distance, was the first one for which a circumstellar dust disc was discovered, by the IRAS satellite in 1983 (see the discovery image). The discovery was made in the infrared spectral range, and was possible because the star warms the dust in the disk. The disk extend outward to about 10 times the distance of planet Pluto from the Sun, or several 100 astronomical units (several tens of billion km). Irregularities in the disk were discovered, and astronomers speculate these could be caused by the presence of planets disturbing the dust by their gravity. The presence of this and other circumstellar disks indicates that planetary systems may be quite common at normal stars.

The star's age is estimated at a few 100 million years.

Our image was obtained with the 3.6-meter ESO telescope on La Cilla/Chile in the infrared J-band by Jean-Luc Beuzit (see ESO press release below). The star is obscurred and the disk is prominent in this image.


  • Hubble Space Telescope investigations of Beta Pictoris:
  • ESO Press Photo 16/97: New Detailed Image of the Disk around Beta Pictoris (our image is from this press release)
  • Dave Hewitt's Beta Pictoris study with the University of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope

    [Constellations] | [SEDS] | [MAA]

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg