Three Infant Planets Discovered Orbiting A Newborn Star

Posted: Jun 14 2018, 7:29am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 14 2018, 7:33am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Three Infant Planets Discovered Orbiting a Newborn Star
Artist impression of protoplanets forming around a young star. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; S. Dagnello

The information about these new planets has been obtained from the data collected by ALMA

Using a new planet-hunting technique, astronomers have discovered a trio of young planets orbiting around a newborn star. The star, called HD 163296, is about 4 million years old and lies 330 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Researchers have identified unusual patterns in the flow of gas within the star’s protoplanetary disk that represent telltale hallmarks of newly formed planets around it.

"We looked at the localized, small-scale motion of gas in a star's protoplanetary disk. This entirely new approach could uncover some of the youngest planets in our galaxy, all thanks to the high-resolution images coming from ALMA.” Richard Teague, an astronomer at the University of Michigan said in a statement.

Due to extensive observations over the years, astronomers are beginning to learn how planets form around a star. Thousands of planets are already in the database and they continue to discover more using different techniques. Mostly, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has been used to observe protoplanetary disks encircle young stars. These disks are filled with gas and dust and ringed gaps inside them can provide evidence for the presence of planets. However, rather than focusing on the overall structure of the disk, astronomers now studied the distribution and motion of carbon monoxide (CO) gas throughout the disk and detected a very distinctive millimeter-wavelength light. These discrete disturbances in a young star's gas-filled disk are caused by the presence of planets around it.

"It would take a relatively massive object, like a planet, to create localized disturbances in this otherwise orderly motion," said Christophe Pinte of Monash University in Australia. "Our new technique applies this principle to help us understand how planetary systems form."

Two distinctive planet-like patterns in the disk were identified by a team led by Richard Teague while the other team, led by Pinte, discovered third planet at about 260 AU from the star. Calculations show that these planets have masses similar to Jupiter. Both teams used variations of a same technique to observe motion of carbon monoxide within the disk. Subtle changes in the light emitted by CO revealed that the gas is interacting with massive objects. Since other mechanisms can also produce ringed gaps in a protoplanetary disk, researchers used fine-scale velocity signatures from the carbon monoxide gas to reach the conclusion.

"Although dust plays an important role in planet formation and provides invaluable information, gas accounts for 99 percent of a protoplanetary disks' mass," said coauthor Jaehan Bae of the Carnegie Institute for Science. "It is therefore crucial to study kinematics of the gas."

Researchers will continue applying this new method to other disks. With this method, they are hoping to better understand how atmospheres are formed and what elements and molecules are delivered to a planet at its birth.

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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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