24/7 Space News
Planet-forming Disks Around Low-mass Stars Show Unique Characteristics
illustration only
Planet-forming Disks Around Low-mass Stars Show Unique Characteristics
by Robert Schreiber
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Jun 07, 2024

Planets form in disks of gas and dust orbiting young stars. The MIRI Mid-INfrared Disk Survey (MINDS), led by Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, aims to establish a representative disk sample. By exploring their chemistry and physical properties with MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) on board the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the collaboration links those disks to the properties of planets potentially forming there. In a new study, a team of researchers explored the vicinity of a very low-mass star of 0.11 solar masses (known as ISO-ChaI 147), whose results appear in the journal Science.

"These observations are not possible from Earth because the relevant gas emissions are absorbed by its atmosphere," explained lead author Aditya Arabhavi of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. "Previously, we could only identify acetylene (C2H2) emission from this object. However, JWST"s higher sensitivity and the spectral resolution of its instruments allowed us to detect weak emission from less abundant molecules."

The MINDS collaboration found gas at temperatures around 300 Kelvin (ca. 30 degrees Celsius), strongly enriched with carbon-bearing molecules but lacking oxygen-rich species. "This is profoundly different from the composition we see in disks around solar-type stars, where oxygen-bearing molecules such as water and carbon dioxide dominate," added team member Inga Kamp, University of Groningen.

One example of an oxygen-rich disk is the one of PDS 70, where the MINDS program recently found large amounts of water vapor. Considering earlier observations, astronomers deduce that disks around very low-mass stars evolve differently than those around more massive stars such as the Sun, with potential implications for finding rocky planets with Earth-like characteristics there. Since the environments in such disks set the conditions in which new planets form, any such planet may be rocky but quite unlike Earth in other aspects.

The amount of material and its distribution across those disks limits the number and sizes of planets the disk can supply with the necessary material. Consequently, observations indicate that rocky planets with sizes similar to Earth form more efficiently than Jupiter-like gas giants in the disks around very low-mass stars, the most common stars in the Universe. As a result, very low-mass stars host the majority of terrestrial planets by far.

"Many primary atmospheres of those planets will probably be dominated by hydrocarbon compounds and not so much by oxygen-rich gases such as water and carbon dioxide," Thomas Henning pointed out. "We showed in an earlier study that the transport of carbon-rich gas into the zone where terrestrial planets usually form happens faster and is more efficient in those disks than the ones of more massive stars."

Although it seems clear that disks around very low-mass stars contain more carbon than oxygen, the mechanism for this imbalance is still unknown. The disk composition is the result of either carbon enrichment or the reduction of oxygen. If the carbon is enriched, the cause is probably solid particles in the disk, whose carbon is vaporized and released into the gaseous component of the disk. The dust grains, stripped of their original carbon, eventually form rocky planetary bodies. Those planets would be carbon-poor, as is Earth. Still, carbon-based chemistry would likely dominate at least their primary atmospheres provided by disk gas. Therefore, very low-mass stars may not offer the best environments for finding planets akin to Earth.

To identify the disk gases, the team used MIRI"s spectrograph to decompose the infrared radiation received from the disk into signatures of small wavelength ranges - similar to sunlight being split into a rainbow. This way, the team isolated a wealth of individual signatures attributed to various molecules.

As a result, the observed disk contains the richest hydrocarbon chemistry seen to date in a protoplanetary disk, consisting of 13 carbon-bearing molecules up to benzene (C6H6). They include the first extrasolar ethane (C2H6) detection, the largest fully-saturated hydrocarbon detected outside the Solar System. The team also successfully detected ethylene (C2H4), propyne (C3H4), and the methyl radical CH3 for the first time in a protoplanetary disk. In contrast, the data contained no hint of water or carbon monoxide in the disk.

Next, the science team intends to expand their study to a larger sample of such disks around very low-mass stars to develop their understanding of how common such exotic carbon-rich terrestrial planet-forming regions are. "Expanding our study will also allow us to understand better how these molecules can form," Thomas Henning explained. "Several features in the data are also still unidentified, warranting additional spectroscopy to interpret our observations fully."

Research Report:Abundant hydrocarbons in the disk around a very-low-mass star

Related Links
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Newly Discovered Planet Retains Atmosphere Despite Star's Intense Radiation
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jun 06, 2024
A rare exoplanet near its host star has retained a puffy atmosphere, defying expectations of being stripped down to bare rock due to the star's intense radiation. This discovery is challenging current theories about planetary evolution in extreme environments. Nicknamed "Phoenix," the newly discovered planet shows the vast diversity of solar systems and the complexity of planetary evolution, especially at the end of stars' lives. The findings are published in The Astronomical Journal. ... read more

Ohio State students to test space food solutions for NASA

US and Germany double down on space exploration

NASA and Boeing Advance Starliner Tests with Crew at Space Station

Virgin Galactic completes final spaceflight before two-year pause

Rocket Lab plans 50th Electron mission to deploy five satellites for Kineis

Boeing Starliner crew aboard ISS after challenging docking

In first, SpaceX's megarocket Starship nails ocean splashdown

European Consortium Receives euro 15M for Inflatable Heat Shield Development

Water frost discovered on Mars' tallest volcanoes

Frost discovered on top of giant Mars volcanoes

New analysis suggests lack of subglacial lake on Mars

NASA Observes Mars Illuminated During Major Solar Storm

Ten make the cut for China's fourth batch of astronauts

China sees commercial sector as next frontier in US space race

China announces first astronaut candidates from Hong Kong, Macau

China Open to Space Collaboration with the US

Yahsat Contracts Airbus for New Al Yah Satellites

Nara Space Secures $14.5M Series B to Expand Satellite Fleet

China launches multi-functional communication satellite for Pakistan

CGI works on new interfaces for European Space Agency to expand satellite communications market

Over 40 Entities Join the Zero Debris Charter

10 Benefits of Using 360Learning for Your Company's Learning Needs

Where is the Best Place to Buy Used Books?

Security considerations in flight launcher software

Webb Telescope Reveals Asteroid Collision In Neighboring Star System

Small, cool and sulfurous exoplanet may help write recipe for planetary formation

Planet-forming Disks Around Low-mass Stars Show Unique Characteristics

Clemson grad student's study sheds light on planet formation in infant stars

Understanding Cyclones on Jupiter Through Oceanography

Unusual Ion May Influence Uranus and Neptune's Magnetic Fields

NASA's Europa Clipper Arrives in Florida for Launch Preparation

New Earth-Based Telescope Images of Jupiter's Moon Io Match Spacecraft Quality

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - 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. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. 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. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.