A Treasure Trove Of Planets Found Hiding In Dust

Posted: Dec 9 2018, 2:32am CST | by , Updated: Dec 9 2018, 2:50am CST, in Latest Science News


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A Treasure Trove of Planets Found Hiding in Dust

Gaps and ring-like structures in Taurus star-forming region can be best explained by the presence of nascent planets.

Planets form from rotating disks of gas and dust around young stars. Using Atacama Large Millimeter Array or ALMA, researchers have performed a survey of young stars in a star-forming region of constellation Taurus and spotted features or patterns that might be caused by invisible would-be planets.

The discovery suggests that rotating protoplanetary disks can be used to indicate the presence of Super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets and that giant planets could be forming around young stars in much greater numbers than scientists thought.

“This is fascinating because it is the first time that exoplanet statistics, which suggest that super-Earths and Neptunes are the most common type of planets, coincide with observations of protoplanetary disks.” Lead author Feng Long from Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University in Beijing said in a statement.

It is believed that the material in protoplanetary disks clump together to form cores of young planets. As young planets pick up new material over time, they grow larger and larger in sizes and begin to create patterns of gaps and rings into the disk from which they are formed. So gaps and ring-like structures are fascinating clues to the presence or formation of new planets.

Since previous surveys have focused on the brightest disks because they are easier to find, it was unclear how many fainter disks with rings and gaps exist in the universe. To find out, researchers used 45 radio telescope antennae of ALMA. When they imaged 32 stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks in Taurus, they found that 12 of them have rings and gaps.

The origin of these structures is debated because they can be carved by other effects. Therefore, researchers analyzed ALMA data to evaluate possible mechanisms that could cause these rings and gaps. However, they were unable to establish any correlations between stellar properties and the patterns of gaps and rings they observed

“We can therefore rule out the commonly proposed idea of ice lines causing the rings and gaps," said Paola Pinilla from University of Arizona. “Our findings leave nascent planets as the most likely cause of the patterns we observed, although some other processes may also be at work."

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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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