HONOLULU — Using two linked telescopes that act as a single, high-powered lens, scientists have observed a young star thought to be more like our own solar system than similar celestial bodies observed in the past.

The star, known as DG Tau, is surrounded by a swirling disk of particles like those believed to be the source of planets, scientists said Tuesday.

Observations of DG Tau were made Oct. 23, 2002, and Feb. 13 this year and are scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Since 1995, astronomers have detected more than 100 extra-solar planets, many considered too large and close to their bright, hot parent stars to sustain life, said Rachel Akeson, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology and leader of the study team.

"If you look at what these objects are, they are different from our sun," said Bo Reipurth, a professor at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy who did not take part in the study. "If we put the sun out at the distance of, say, 500 light years or so, then it would be a faint object.

"This here (DG Tau) is an object that in all likelihood is going to end up one day as a star very similar to our own sun."

The observations are the first published findings resulting from the use of the linked 10-meter telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island, said Gerard van Belle, a staff scientist at Cal Tech's Michelson Science Center who took part in the observations.

The telescopes, known as the Keck Interferometer, form the equivalent of a 279-foot telescope and comprise the world's largest optical telescope system. Each telescope gathers light waves and combines them so they interact, or "interfere" with each other to simulate a much larger, more powerful device.

Though interferometry isn't new, the power to look at faint stars such as DG Tau can only be accomplished with the Keck telescopes, Reipurth said.

"Studies like this teach us more about how stars form, either alone or in pairs, and how planets eventually form in discs around stars," Akeson said.

By measuring the amount of dust around other stars, where planets may form, the Keck Interferometer is expected to play a role in NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, tentatively scheduled to begin in 2012, van Belle said.

The mission is part of NASA's Origins Program and looks for smaller, Earth-like planets that may harbor life.

On the Net:

W.M. Keck Observatory: www2.keck.hawaii.edu/

Michelson Science Center: msc.caltech.edu