Science

Infant protoplanets discovered in constellation of Sagittarius by ALMA

Infant protoplanets discovered in constellation of Sagittarius by ALMA

An worldwide team of astronomers has used a new technique to finally discover not one, but three infant planets around a newborn star-an incredible finding that's affirming long-held assumptions about planet formation.

[2] The motion of gas around a star in the absence of planets has a very simple, predictable pattern (Keplerian rotation) that is almost impossible to alter both coherently and locally, so that only the presence of a relatively massive object can create such disturbances.

By studying the motion and distribution of the carbon monoxide gas with ALMA, they were able to observe the light that the molecules emit.

Teague and his colleagues want to use this evidence to optimize set-ups on other telescopes and find other planets that are forming.

Discovered using a breakthrough new technique by two independent teams of astronomers, the scientists have described these three protoplanets as "the youngest planets ever seen".

The young planets orbit a star called HD 163296, which is located about 330 million light years away from us in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The team says that to create localized disturbances in the otherwise orderly motion of the gas, something "relatively massive" would have to be making the gravity, such as a planet.

"Measuring the flow of gas within a protoplanetary disc gives us much more certainty that planets are present around a young star", said Christophe Pinte of Monash University in Australia and Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (Université de Grenoble-Alpes/CNRS) in France, and lead author on one of the two papers.




Even with advanced science and astronomy tools, it is quite hard to discover new planets.

The team led by Teague found two gaps and wake patterns associated with planets about 80 and 140 astronomical units from HD 163296. They are surrounded by a swirling disk of gas and dust, hiding objects like baby planets and making it hard for scientists to study how planetary systems form. By looking at subtle changes in the levels of that CO, researchers can figure out how the gas is moving. A previous study of this particular star's disk shows that the dust and gas gaps overlap, suggesting that at least two planets have formed there. Richard Teague, an astronomer at the University of MI said in a statement.

Finding more baby planets will help astronomers answer many outstanding questions about planet formation - including the process by which our own Solar System came into existence. One astronomical unit is equivalent to the distance between the sun and the Earth or around 150 million kilometers.

Pinte and his team more directly measured the gas's actual velocity, which is a better for studying the outer portion of the disk and can more accurately pinpoint the location of a potential planet.

The astronomers reported their results and analysis in a pair of papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

We've been identifying fully formed exoplanets left and right over the last few decades; NASA researchers recently identified more than 100 giant planets whose moons may be capable of supporting life.

Kinematic evidence for an embedded protoplanet in a circumstellar disc, by C. Pinte et al., 2018, to appear in Astrophysical Journal Letters.


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