The image on the right, courtesy of the Hubble, is the star V838 Monocerotis, which is undergoing a transformation to the red giant phase of its life cycle. The violent transformation is lighting up a shell of gas surrounding it in a rather dramatic fashion, but it's also creating a bit of an enigma. By following the process since 2002, astronomers have detected three distinct levels of light output, leading them to propose that the changes in energy came about as the expanding star swallowed nearby planets. But others claim that planets wouldn't provide enough energy, and suggest objects closer in size to a star would be needed. Yet another model proposes that a huge planet is being swallowed in stages. Hopefully, it'll be sorted out before our own star starts to expand and gulps down its neighboring planets, providing us with a more accessible example to study.
Meanwhile, at the nearby star Beta Pictoris, there's a debris disk that shouldn't be there. The star is pushing out enough energy to drive off any nearby gas. The article calls it, "a serious gap in our understanding." This one, the astronomers have figured out. By turning the FUSE observatory on it, they discovered that the disk was unexpectedly rich in an ion that did not absorb the star's output: carbon. As the authors put it, "Carbon is extremely overabundant relative to every other measured element. … The overabundance may indicate that the gas is produced from material more carbon-rich than expected of Solar System analogues."
The disk appears to be appropriate raw material for forming planetary bodies, but the results would be nothing like the solar system we're familiar with. A collection of carbonaceous bodies buried in a methane haze, much like Saturn's moon Titan, is the likely product of any planet formation, although one account in the popular press suggested the denser ones might form diamond cores. Over time, as more planetary disks are surveyed, it'll be interesting to see how many are likely to produce anything that looks like the system we all know and love.