Oldest Known Planet-Forming Disk Discovered By Scientists

Posted: Oct 22 2016, 11:33am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 22 2016, 12:01pm CDT , in Latest Science News


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Oldest Known Planet-Forming Disk Discovered by Scientists
Credit: Jonathan Holden/Disk Detective

NASA and citizen scientists discover the oldest planet-forming disk around a star. The new place could be a hunting ground for exoplanets outside the solar system

A team of researchers have discovered what could be the oldest planet-forming disk so far.

The disk of gas and dust orbits around a red dwarf called AWI0005x3s. The star is located in Carina stellar association which is a group of some of the most massive and brightest stars sitting in the Carina Nebula. Carina association is 70 light years across and is the most massive stellar association in our galaxy Milky Way. The circumstellar disks encircle young stars and are considered responsible for the formation of planets. So, the discovery could possibly lead to the exploration of several new exoplanets.

The lifetime of circumstellar disks is relatively short in terms of cosmic scale. But it appears that the red dwarf AWI0005x3s has been sustaining its disk for an exceptionally longer period of time, which is an uncharacteristic for a standard star.

“Most disks of this kind fade away in less than 30 million years," said lead research Steven Silverberg from University of Oklahoma. “This particular red dwarf is a candidate member of the Carina stellar association, which would make it around 45 million years old [like the rest of the stars in that group]. It's the oldest red dwarf system with a disk we've seen in one of these associations.”

The discovery was made by citizen scientists working on a project called Disk Detective. The project which is led by NASA researchers is aiming to locate new circumstellar disks in the outer space. The project involves people with no formal training in astrophysics and asks them to provide their assistance in classifying celestial objects after seeing videos of NASA surveys. The surveys are based on the information taken from Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission (WISE) and Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). Since the launch of the project in early 2014, nearly 30,000 citizen scientists have managed to classifying more than 2 million objects.

“Unraveling the mysteries of universe, while contributing to the advancement of astronomy is without, a doubt a dream come true.” Hugo Durantini Luca, one of the eight citizen scientists involved in the research said.

Researchers believe that the disk is certainly older than usual because it is lying in the group of older stars in the Carina association and all of them are roughly born on the same time. However, researchers are unable to pinpoint the exact timeframe.

“It is surprising to see a circumstellar disk around a star that may be 45 million years old, because we normally expect these disks to dissipate within a few million years,” said Jonathan Gagné from Carnegie University.

“More observations will be needed to determine whether the star is really as old as we suspect, and if it turns out to be, it will certainly become a benchmark system to understand the lifetime of disks.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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