During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noted the presence of several “nebulous objects” in the night sky. Having originally mistaken them for comets, he began compiling a list of them so that others would not make the same mistake he did. In time, this list (known as the Messier Catalog) would come to include 100 of the most fabulous objects in the night sky.
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an aging star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.