Astronomers Witness Formation Of Planet Around A Star

Posted: Dec 13 2016, 6:47am CST | by , Updated: Dec 13 2016, 9:05pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Astronomers Witness Formation of Planet Around a Star
An image of the star HD 163296 and its circumstellar disk. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Andrea Isella
 

Rings around the distant star suggest that Saturn-like gas giants have formed out of nearby gas and dust.

Astronomers have long attempted to find out the processes involved in the formation of planets. As telescopes and space probes were sent out of space, researchers now have thousands of planets in the database and their knowledge is also getting better and better with every discovery.

In the latest study, researchers from Rice University, astronomers and their colleagues have mapped out dust and gas in three dark rings around a distant star for the first time. Planets are believed to have formed in the rings around a star and researchers claim they have found the evidence of planet formation around the star, known as HD 163296.

Researchers have found that the rings around the star HD 163296 are devoid of gas and dust. Since planets form out of cloud of gas and dust within the rings around a star, the absence of star forming material here indicates that gas and dust might have used up in the formation of gas giants that could be equivalent to the size of Saturn.

The star HD 163296 is nearly 4,000 light years away from the Earth and is one of those star system that are known to have a large disk of gas and dust around them. 

“Of the material that formed this disk, about 1 percent is dust particles and 99 percent is gas,” said Rice astronomer and lead researcher Andrea Isella. “So if you only see the dust, you cannot tell if a ring was formed by a planet or another phenomenon. In order to distinguish and really tell if there are planets or not, you need to see what the gas is doing, and in this study, for the first time, we can see both the dust and the gas.”

The discovery was made using Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. ALMA is world's largest radio telescope that is designed to spot some of the most distant galaxies and areas around the young stars to understand the process of planet forming

Observations reveal that gas and dust is not equally distributed in all three rings. The outer rings apparently do not have much traces of gas. However, the innermost ring has shown the much greater concentration of carbon monoxide than the other two, leading researchers to believe no planet exists there. The findings will help researchers understand how the planets like Earth formed.

Andrea Isella says.“If we know the chemistry of the material forming a planet, we can understand the chemistry of the planet.”

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