Date: 11 Apr 2012
ESA's Herschel Space Observatory has studied the dusty belt around the nearby star Fomalhaut. The dust appears to be coming from collisions that destroy up to thousands of icy comets every day.
Fomalhaut is a young star, just a few hundred million years old, and twice as massive as the Sun. Its dust belt was discovered in the 1980s, but Herschel's images of the belt show it in much more detail at far-infrared wavelengths than ever before.
To keep the collision rate so high, there must be between 260 billion and 83 trillion comets in the belt, depending on their size. Our own Solar System has a similar number of comets in its Oort Cloud, which formed from objects scattered from a disc surrounding the Sun when it was as young as Fomalhaut.
Credit: European Space Agency