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Hidden Planet Disturbs a Ring of Dust

Article written: 13 Jun , 2007
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
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You can’t see it, but there’s a Neptune-sized planet hidden in a ring of dust around the star Fomalhaut. At least, this is according to new research from the University of Rochester. A recent photograph taken by Hubble shows that this ring around Fomalhaut is slightly off-centre, and nobody knew why, until now.

Protoplanetary rings have been discovered around many newly forming stars. As the star matures, its powerful solar wind kicks in, blowing out all the remaining dust and gas that helped form the planets. In the case of Fomalhaut, this ring is elliptical, with the parent star off to one side.

To give the ring this elliptical shape, researcher Alice Quillen determined that a Neptune-sized planet must be tucked up right against the inner side of this ring. Its gravity is tossing dust in the area out of orbit. How this planet got into an elliptical orbit is a bit of a mystery, though. Usually planets form in nice circular disks, which translate to circular orbits.

Original Source: University of Rochester News Release


1 Response

  1. J says

    Wouldn’t this happen if the planet’s orbit were parallel or almost parallel to our view of the system?

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