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Beta Pictoris is a hot young star some 63 light years from the Solar System, lying at the heart of a complex system of discs and rings. The star has two major circumstellar discs, one filling the inner parts of the system, and the other much farther from the central star. Beta Pictoris also posseses a series of narrower planetesimal belts ranging between the two discs of debris, implying that the young star is in the earliest stages of forming a system of planets.

The system also contains at least one true planet, designated Beta Pictoris b. This is a massive and dense body, approaching twice the diameter of Jupiter and very considerably more massive than that giant planet. Its 21-year orbit carries it around the edge of the inner debris disc, at a distance of some 9.2 AU from the star (comparable with the distance of Saturn from the Sun).

Variations in the structures of the planetesimal belts, much farther from Beta Pictoris than Beta Pictoris b, imply that there may be other planets in more distant orbits around the star. If so, the existence of these outer planets has yet to be conclusively demonstrated, and to date massive Beta Pictoris b remains the only confirmed planet within its young stellar system.


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