Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to observe an asteroid belt outside our solar system, revealing surprising cosmic findings. The telescope focused on the dust surrounding Fomalhaut, a bright star 25 light-years away in the Piscis Austrinus constellation. Previously discovered in 1983, the dust disk around Fomalhaut was found to consist of three nested rings extending 14 billion miles from the star, surpassing Earth’s distance from the sun by 150 times. This new observation unveiled Fomalhaut’s two inner belts, which were not visible in previous images from the Hubble Space Telescope or other observatories. The Webb telescope captured an infrared image that displayed a more intricate structure, surpassing the complexity of our solar system’s asteroid belt and Kuiper Belt.

The presence of these inner rings suggests the influence of unseen planets within the star system, shaping the dust belts similarly to Jupiter and Neptune in our solar system. Fomalhaut’s outer belt alone is twice the size of the Kuiper Belt. The massive dust belts around Fomalhaut likely formed from the remnants of asteroid and comet collisions. By examining the patterns in these rings, scientists can gain insights into the structure of planetary systems. Combining data from Webb and other telescopes enables a more comprehensive understanding of debris belt formation around stars. Researchers also observed a feature known as “the great dust cloud,” indicating a collision between celestial bodies in the outer ring. Another feature, spotted by Hubble in 2008, disappeared by 2014, suggesting an additional collision that left only dust behind.