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D. Searching For New Planets The Cheaper Way

Narrator: This is Science Today. Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley may have come up with a cheaper way to search for new planets. Barry Welsh and his colleagues look for stars that are similar to Beta Pictoris, the first star discovered to have proto-planetary activity.

Welsh: That's still a well observed star and it's the number one candidate for a planet within fifty light years of the sun. We found another two stellar systems that've got comets going round them. These stars are about 300 light years away.

Narrator: Welsh says his team basically looks for what's left over once the planets have been formed.

Welsh: It's a lot easier to find that mainly because when planets are being formed, the whole formation process is essentially obscured from view. It all happens behind very dense, cold clouds of gas and very dense cumulations of dust and you have to use special equipment to see through those clouds. Everything's sort of formed by the time that we look at these things, so a lot of the gas and the dust is gone away and so it's easier for us to see because there's no curtain obscuring the view.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.