In this artist's impression, a disk of dusty material leftover from star formation girds two young stars like a hula hoop. As the two stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk, making the system appear to "blink" every 93 days.
The dusty hula hoop itself is misaligned from the central star pair, thanks to the disrupting gravitational presence of a third star orbiting at the periphery of the system. The light yellow arcs near the two central stars indicate their movement relative to each other and the disk. It is believed that this disk will go on to spawn planets and the other celestial bodies that make up a solar system.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope observed this system, called YLW 16A, in the infrared light emitted by the disk's warmed gas and dust.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.