A new study by astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics has evidence there is a new planet in the vicinity. Planets form in protoplanetary disks, the bands of gas and dust surrounding newly formed, young stars. Although the Universe has hundreds of these discs, observing true planetary birth and evolution in these environments has been a challenge.
Astronomers have developed a novel way to find these elusive newborn planets, along with “smoking evidence” of a small Neptune- or Saturn-like planet hiding in a disc. The Astrophysical Journal Letters published a description of the results today, ANI reported.
According to Feng Long, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Astrophysics and project leader, “finding young planets directly is very difficult and has only been effective in one or two situations so far.” Because they are surrounded by significant amounts of gas and dust, planets for always too dark for us to see them.
Instead, they must look for signs of a planet forming beneath the dust.
Long notes that in recent years, “many structures have appeared on disks that we think are caused by the existence of a planet, but could also be caused by something else.” “We need new methods to to study and prove the existence of a planet.”
Long decided to revisit the protoplanetary disk LkCa 15 for her research. The disk is located in the constellation of Taurus, 518 light-years away. Previous research using images from the ALMA observatory showed evidence of planet formation in the disk.
Have been trawling through fresh, high-resolution ALMA data on LkCa 15 for a long time, mostly from 2019, and found two faint features that weren’t there before.
Long discovered a dusty ring with two distinct, brilliant clusters of material orbiting within it at a distance of about 42 astronomical units from the star, or 42 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. The material was split 120 degrees and appeared as a small blob and a larger arc.
Computer simulations have long been used to analyze the situation and determine what accumulated the material. He discovered that the objects’ size and placement were consistent with the presence of a planet.
She explains, “This arc and clump are separated by about 120 degrees.” This level of disparity is mathematically significant; it doesn’t just happen.
The results suggest the planet is between one and three million years old and about the size of either Neptune or Saturn.