Amateur captures new solar system in stunning pictures

A New Zealand astronomer has captured the first amateur pictures of another solar system from a tiny telescope in his back yard.

According to reports, Rolf Olsen has captured the star Beta Pictoris, and the disk of debris and dust orbiting it, in a stunning image that has amazed astronomers worldwide.

Olsen, who moved to New Zealand in 2003 from Denmark, put the photograph on his website, triggering a wave of congratulatory messages from scientific community around the world.

"I realised it was a special thing but I didn't realise it would generate such a stir," he said.

Incredibly, Olsen took the photo of the distant star (63.4 light years away) using a 25 cm telescope at his home.

Rolf Olsen's picture of the star Beta Pictoris, believed to be the first image by an amateur photographer.

Scientists are now describing the feat as a "milestone".

"I think it's a milestone in 'amateur' astronomy, and it goes to show you that sometimes, the sky is not the limit," Phil Plait, who worked on the Hubble Telescope for over a decade, wrote on Discovery Magazine.

The photo shows the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star that represents a developing solar system, and the material inside the disk could develop into planets and asteroids.

Olsen says he got the idea by reading a 1993 Harvard paper titled 'Observation of the central part of the beta Pictoris disk with an anti-blooming CCD'.