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Astronomers using the Hubble telescope made the first broad search for planets far beyond our local stellar neighborhood. They trained Hubble's "eagle eye" for eight days on a swarm of 35,000 stars in 47 Tucanae, located in the southern constellation Tucana. The researchers expected to find 17 "extrasolar" planets. To their surprise, they found none. These results may be the first evidence that conditions for planet formation and evolution are different in other regions of our Milky Way Galaxy.



This image shows the Hubble telescope's close-up look at a swarm of 35, 000 stars near the cluster's central region. The stars are tightly packed together: They are much closer together than our Sun and its closest stars. The picture, taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, depicts the stars' natural colours and tells scientists about their composition and age. For example, the red stars denote bright red giants nearing the end of their lives; the more common yellow stars are similar to our middle-aged Sun.

Credit: Ron Gilliland (Space Telescope Science Institute) and NASA / ESA


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