Astronomers have discovered proof that planets begin to develop while stars are still infants.
The high-resolution picture captured by ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) shows an infant proto-stellar disk with many rings and gaps of dust. The discovery presents the youngest and most detailed example of dust rings behaving as space cradles, where the seeds of planets develop and take hold. Here is what you need to know.
New Study Details
An international team of researchers supervised by Dominique Segura-Cox at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany examined the proto-star IRS 63 using ALMA.
IRS 63 is 470 light-years from our planet, situated deep within the dense L1709 interstellar cloud in the Ophiuchus constellation.
In systems older than 1,000,000 years, after the proto-stars have ended collecting most of their mass, rings of dust have been previously spotted in significant amounts. IRS 63, however, is incredibly unique.
IRS 63 was detected at under 500,000 years old, less than half the age of other infant stars with dust rings. And the proto-star will still grow a lot in mass.
“The rings in the disk of IRS 63 are vast pile-ups of dust, ready to combine into planets,” stated co-author of the study, Anika Schmiedke at MPE.
However, even after the dust bundles to form a planet embryo, the still-developing planet could die by spiraling inwards and being eaten by the central proto-star. If planets start to develop incredibly early and at considerable lengths from the proto-star, they might better survive all the processes.
The Team’s Findings
The team of researchers discovered that there are approximately 0.5 Jupiter masses of dust in the young disk of IRS 63. And that is not including the amount of gas, which could add up to 100 times more matter.
Also, the disk’s size is similar to our Solar System, and the mass of the proto-star is a bit less than the Sun’s.
The team concluded that examining such young planet-developing disks around proto-stars can offer us significant insights into our origins.
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