This artist’s concept depicts a distant hypothetical solar system, similar in age to our own. Looking inward from the system’s outer fringes, a ring of dusty debris can be seen, and within it, planets circling a star the size of our Sun.

This debris is all that remains of the planet-forming disk from which the planets evolved. Planets are formed when dusty material in a large disk surrounding a young star clumps together. Leftover material is eventually blown out by solar wind or pushed out by gravitational interactions with planets. Billions of years later, only an outer disk of debris remains. (NASA)