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The Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS), launched in January, has discovered a shell or ring of particles around Vega, the brightest star in the constellation “The Lyre” and one of the brightest stars in the sky. The discovery provides the first direct evidence that solid objects of substantial size exist around a star other than the sun; it also offers the first scientific opportunity to study what may be an early solar system accreting from stellar debris, much like our solar system is believed to have formed.

IRAS measured the material to be at a temperature of 90° Kelvin, about the temperature of particles in Saturn's innermost rings. Although the sensitive telescope on IRAS cannot discern the individual particles around Vega, scientists speculated that the particles could range from the size of a pearl to the size of an asteroid or planet. In addition, the composition of the particles is open to debate. The material around Vega probably has not reached the same stage of evolution as our solar system because Vega is less than one fourth as old as our sun.