General, Research, Technology

Astronomers first saw the birth of a planet next to a young star

Agree, it's always nice to get a little distracted fromeveryday worries and think about something that you almost never encounter in everyday life (unless you are an astronomer, of course) - we are talking about the formation of planets in the vast expanses of the vast Universe. Scientists have recently discovered direct evidence that a planet is forming around the young star AB Aurigae. As images from a very large telescope (VLT) located in the Atakami Desert in Chile showed, the spiral disk of gas and dust surrounding the star contains a small S-shaped bend near the center of the spiral. This turn, astronomers say, is the exact place where a new planet should form. But even more remarkable, a star located about 520 light-years from Earth in the constellation Aurigae is only 4 million years old! This is one thousandth of the age of the Sun, so by cosmic standards, the star AB Auriga is just a child.

A disk of gas and dust (image taken in infrared light) around the young star AB Aurigae (left). Bright knot (circled in white on the right) - according to astronomers, the place of planet formation

Astronomers have glanced at what seems like a planetary maternity ward - inside the huge disk of dense gas and dust surrounding a recently formed star, the process of planet formation is visible.

How are star systems born?

Authors of a study published in mayAstronomy & Astrophysics, claim that the results obtained by a team of astronomers fully coincide with the predicted models of planet formation. But how are they formed? We know that stars are born and die, and exactly the same thing happens to planets. In fact, the general picture of the formation of planets is understandable starting from the XVIII century: under the influence of its own gravity, clouds of gas and dust begin to shrink. Over time, a central object, a future star, and a disk around it, begin to stand out from the clouds. It is in this disk that all future inhabitants of this planetary system are formed, including comets and asteroids.

In the image obtained using veryESO’s largest telescope in Chile, scientists saw a spiral structure inside a rotating disk around the star AB Aurigae. If you look closely, the red, yellow, and orange spirals look like a cyclone with a black “eye” in the center. According to the authors of the study, they found a “swirling” structure of gas and dust in a spiral structure, where there is a place for the formation of the planet. But for the planet to finally form, it will take several million years, so how long the process of its birth lasts is difficult to determine exactly. But is it possible to find out what kind of planet it will be?

You will find even more fascinating stories about how stars form, whole galaxies are born and die on our channel in Yandex. Zen! There are regularly published articles that are not on the site.

Since the exact mass of the potential planetunknown, it probably should have been a gas giant like Jupiter, and not a rocky planet like ours. Researchers think so because otherwise the planet would not have created such large waves in the disk. Moreover, it may not be one planet, but two whole - and the second, astronomers do not exclude - can be located at the outer edge of the disk.

Stunning images of swirling gas and dust show planet formation

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How to observe the formation of planets?

In the past, astronomers have only seen large-scalespirals, which researchers believe, were created by invisible planets in the disks of gas and dust around young stars. Theories about how planets come together and collect material from these discs predict that the movement of the planets will further twist the gas around them, pinpointing the location of the planet.

From the very beginning of the discovery of exoplanets, ontoday it is known that more than 4,000 planets orbiting stars outside our solar system exist. So it is not surprising that scientists are eager to learn more about how they are born, since cold gas and dust are consolidated in disks surrounding new stars. It is important to understand that so far thousands of exoplanets have been identified, but very little has been known how exactly they form. Meanwhile, studying this process helps scientists learn more about how our solar system was formed.

Part of the problem is that inIn the past, scientists simply did not possess the necessary technologies, and until recently, they did not receive at all sufficiently clear and deep images of these young disks to detect the very “turn” where the planet is formed. According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Boccaletti, the planet is about 30 times farther from its star than the Earth from the Sun - which is equivalent to the distance to the planet Neptune in our solar system.

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I note that the ESO is building a 39-meterextremely large telescope to study extraterrestrial worlds. Scientists hope that this latest powerful telescope will allow them to get even more detailed ideas about the emerging planets. In other words, there is still a lot of interesting things ahead!