Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
Observing the birth of a planet
by Staff Writers
Zurich, Switzerland (SPX) Jul 05, 2015


The formation of a giant gas planet (right) near the star HD 100546 (left) is not yet complete, allowing astronomers to observe the process. Image courtesy ESO / L. Calcada.

Observing time at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Paranal Mountain is a very precious commodity - and yet the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile spent an entire night with a high-resolution infrared camera pointed at a single object in the night sky. The data collected by the Naco optics instrument enabled an international team headed by ETH Zurich's Sascha Quanz to confirm its earlier hypothesis: that a young gas planet - presumed not unlike Jupiter in our own solar system - is orbiting the star designated HD 100546.

At "just" 335 light years away, HD 100546 is one of our near cosmic neighbours, and its age of five to ten million years makes it relatively young in astronomical terms. Like many young stars, it is surrounded by a massive disk of gas and dust. The outer reaches of this disk are home to the protoplanet, which lies at a distance from its parent star that is some fifty times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Flung to the outskirts - an unlikely scenario

The team first postulated the existence of this young planet in an initial research paper published back in 2013. At the time, however, the researchers were still debating another possible explanation for the data they had collected, namely that the observed object might be a more massive - albeit older - giant planet that had formed further inside the circumstellar disk before being hurled outward.

"It's a scenario we still can't rule out completely," Quanz admits. "But it's much less likely than our explanation, which suggests that what we're seeing is the birth of a planet."

If the object were an older planet that had formed earlier and closer to the star, its ejection trajectory would have to meet certain conditions for the researchers to be able to observe it now: It would have to be ejected directly in the plane of the gas and dust disk and at precisely the right time.

"That would be a pretty huge coincidence," says Quanz. This is why the team prefers the more natural interpretation, which at any rate is unusual enough. In addition, their latest observations have convinced the researchers that the signal they are picking up cannot be coming from a background source.

"The best explanation for the observed phenomena is that a new planet is actually in the process of formation, embedded in the disk surrounding its parent star" - that was the conclusion of the study, which is published in the Astrophysical Journal. The study was conducted within the framework of "PlanetS", one of Switzerland's National Centres of Competence in Research.

Cosmic laboratory
Named HD 100546 b, the planet is the first object of its kind to be discovered. "It provides us with unique observational data on what happens when a gas giant is formed," Quanz says. Previously, scientists investigated how, where and when giant planets form in the disks surrounding young stars only in theory or using computer simulations. "Now we have a kind of 'laboratory' that can give us empirical data," Quanz explains.

In the meantime, other astronomers have found two more young stars that appear to be harbouring young giant planets, although these seem to be in a somewhat later evolutionary phase as, thanks to their orbital motion, they have already cleared large gaps in the disks they are embedded in. No largely cleared gaps have been found in the vicinity of HD 100546 b.

"Our object still seems to be surrounded by a lot of dust and gas," Quanz says. Besides the parent star's circumstellar disk, there may also be a smaller, circumplanetary disk encircling the newly formed planet from where matter is accreted onto the planet.

Thermal radiation from a large area
Based on their observations in three different wavelength bands, the researchers were able to derive an initial estimate for the object's size and temperature. Their estimate puts the average temperature of the area - which has a diameter corresponding to seven times that of Jupiter's - at over 600 degrees Celsius.

The fact that thermal radiation is emanating from such a large area suggests that its source is a combination of a young planet and a circumplanetary disk. Future observations using the Alma radio telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert should confirm whether or not the protoplanet is in fact encircled by its own disk, as well as provide indications regarding the disk's mass and size.

And it's quite possible that HD 100546 may yet supply further insights: Based on earlier observations of the star, the astronomers suspect that there might be a second planet orbiting it.

If so, it would be approximately five times closer to the star than HD 100546 b is. So the astronomers may even be able to observe the formation of several planets in a single system. However, the existence of the second, inner planet is yet to be confirmed. That would come as no surprise, though, as many of the almost 2,000 exoplanets discovered so far belong to multi-planetary systems - just like our solar system.

Quanz SP, Amara A, Meyer MR, Girard JH, Kenworthy MA, Kasper M: Confirmation and characterization of the protoplanet HD 100546 b, Astrophysical Journal, 1. Juli 2015, doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/807/1/64


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
ETH Zurich
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
Precise ages of largest number of stars hosting planets ever measured
Aarhus, Denmark (SPX) Jul 01, 2015
A new study of 33 Kepler stars with solar-like oscillations to be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The 33 Kepler stars have been selected for their solar like oscillations and a set of basic parameters have been determined with high precision showing that stars even older than 11 billion years have Earth-like planets. According to lead author of the article V ... read more


EXO WORLDS
Russia to Land Space Vessel on Moon's Polar Region in 2019

Moon engulfed in permanent, lopsided dust cloud

Crashing comets may explain mysterious lunar swirls

Google Lunar X-Prize meets Yoda

EXO WORLDS
Opportunity Gets Back to Work

NASA wants to send microbes to Mars to prepare for human habitation

Could This Become the First Mars Airplane

Curiosity Mars Rover Studies Rock-Layer Contact Zone

EXO WORLDS
Docking Adapter Sets Stage for Commercial Crew Crew

Targeted LEDs could provide efficient lighting for plants grown in space

NASA Gears Up to Test Orion's Powerhouse

McCain Blows His Top Over US Inability to Abandon Russian Rocket Engines

EXO WORLDS
Chinese earth station is for exclusively scientific and civilian purposes

Cooperation in satellite technology put Belgium, China to forefront

China set to bolster space, polar security

China's super "eye" to speed up space rendezvous

EXO WORLDS
Relief as Russian cargo ship docks at space station

Loss of SpaceX Cargo Resupply Mission No Threat to ISS Crew Security

Russia launches Soyuz Progress with supplies for ISS

Russia Confirms Elimination of US On-Board Computer Failure at ISS

EXO WORLDS
Final payload integration begins for next Ariane 5 launch

Licensed commercial spaceport to be built in Houston, Texas

More Fidelity for SpaceX In-Flight Abort Reduces Risk

Rocket Lab Announces World's First Commercial Launch Site

EXO WORLDS
Observing the birth of a planet

Precise ages of largest number of stars hosting planets ever measured

Can Planets Be Rejuvenated Around Dead Stars?

Spiral arms cradle baby terrestrial planets

EXO WORLDS
Ball delivers optical reference units for GRACE follow-on mission

'Pac-Man' space probe to gobble-up space debris

Advancing Ceramic Coatings for Engine Life and Efficiency

MRI imaging shows how plants can inspire new engineering materials




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.