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One of the most exciting developments in astronomy in the last couple of decades has been the discovery and study of planets around stars other than our Sun. These worlds outside our Solar System are known as exoplanets. Today, we know that exoplanets can be found in a whole host of configurations and around many different types of stars. Yet astronomers are still trying to determine exactly what conditions make the formation of planets viable - or not.

A new study using observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory is helping to provide insight about the likelihood of planets forming around stars less massive and much younger than the Sun. The TW Hydra group of stars contains these smaller and fainter stars, with ages of about 8 million years old. By contrast, our Sun is about 4.5 billion years old. The researchers wanted to look at stars of this juvenile age because this is when it is thought that planets would begin to form and develop.

The researchers found that even these more diminutive stars can unleash a damaging amount of X-rays, potentially destroying planet-forming disks that surround them. This result suggests that X-ray output should be factored in when thinking about how hospitable low-mass stars really are for planets surviving around them.
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(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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