sam1am points out a New York Times report on a recent paper published in Nature about the formation of planetary systems. A binary star system surrounded by a protoplanetary disc was observed over a period of six years by scientists at Wesleyan University. The orbit of the stars around each other caused changes in illumination from within the disc and allowed the researchers to learn a great deal about its composition. Some of the basic data is posted on the university's site. An animation of the system is also available. From the NYTimes: "'This is the first step in going from smoke particles to macroscopic things like planets and asteroids,' Dr. Herbst said in an interview, noting that these grains were about the same size as those found in many meteorites. Observing starlight reflected from these grains, he said, represented a rare opportunity to study the structure and chemical properties of material in the inner parts of another planetary system."