It’s just like a normal solar system…except completely backwards.Continue reading “This Exoplanetary System Breaks all the Rules”
Astronomers have been watching planetary systems form around sun-like stars for decades. And now, new observations with the ALMA telescope reveal the same process playing out around the smallest, but most common, stars in galaxy.Continue reading “Astronomers are now Finding Planetary Disks Around the Smallest, Least Massive Stars”
Planetary system formation is a process that involves astounding and complex forces. Humans have only just started trying to understand what goes on in this extraordinarily important phase of the development of new worlds. As such, we are continuing to make new discoveries and come up with better models that better fit the observations that our instruments are able to collect.
The most recent of those improved models was announced by a research team at the University of Warwick. A paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters explores possible reasons for why there is a lack of spiral structures in newly formed protoplanetary discs. Their answer is a simple one: massive planets that form on the outside of the disc might be disrupting the spiral formation.Continue reading “Spiral-shaped Planetary Disks Should Be More Common. Giant Planets Might Be Disrupting Their Formation”
Over the last few years, astronomers have observed distant solar systems in their early stages of growth. ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) has captured images of young stars and their disks of material. And in those disks, they’ve spotted the tell-tale gaps that signal the presence of growing young planets.
As they ramped up their efforts, astronomers were eventually able to spot the young planets themselves. All those observations helped confirm our understanding of how young solar systems form.
But more recent research adds another level of detail to the nebular hypothesis, which guides our understanding of solar system formation.Continue reading “Astronomers See a Newly Forming Planetary Disk That’s Continuing to Feed On Material from its Nebula”
This week we are joined by Dr. Jane Huang and Dr. Jonathan Willams from the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA). Dr. Huang, Dr. Williams, and their team recently discovered some surprising information about the size and shape of some protoplanetary disks.Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout: October 14, 2020, Drs. Jane Huang & Jonathan Williams, Protoplanetary Disks”
Protoplanetary disks – where young stars are forming their families of planets – usually form concentric rings of gaps. But astronomers have recently spotted a surprising situation: an adolescent star surrounded by galaxy-like spiral arms.Continue reading “Newly forming star has spiral arms like a tiny galaxy”
Astronomers like to observe young planets forming in circumstellar debris disks, the rotating rings of material around young stars. But when they measure the amount of material in those disks, they don’t contain enough material to form large planets. That discrepancy has puzzled astronomers.
The answer might come down to timing.
A new study suggests that planets form much quicker than astronomers think.Continue reading “Planets Form in Just a Few Hundred Thousand Years”
Astronomers like observing distant young stars as they form. Stars are born out of a molecular cloud, and once enough of the matter in that cloud clumps together, fusion ignites and a star begins its life. The leftover material from the formation of the star is called a circumstellar disk.
As the material in the circumstellar disk swirls around the now-rotating star, it clumps up into individual planets. As planets form in it, they leave gaps in that disk. Or so we think.Continue reading “Are the Gaps in These Disks Caused by Planets?”
According to the most widely accepted theory of planet formation (the Nebular Hypothesis), the Solar System began roughly 4.6 billion years ago from a massive cloud of dust and gas (aka. a nebula). After the cloud experienced gravitational collapse at the center, forming the Sun, the remaining gas and dust fell into a disk that orbited it. The planets gradually accreted from this disk over time, creating the system we know today.
However, until now, scientists have wondered how dust could come together in microgravity to form everything from stars and planets to asteroids. However, a new study by a team of German researchers (and co-authored by Rutgers University) found that matter in microgravity spontaneously develops strong electrical charges and stick together. These findings could resolve the long mystery of how planets formed.Continue reading “Planets Started Out From Dust Clumping Together. Here’s How”
We’ve all heard this one: when you drink a glass of water, that water has already been through a bunch of other people’s digestive tracts. Maybe Attila the Hun’s or Vlad the Impaler’s; maybe even a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s.
Well, the same thing is true of stars and matter. All the matter we see around us here on Earth, even our own bodies, has gone through at least one cycle of stellar birth and death, maybe more. But which type of star?
That’s what a team of researchers at ETH Zurich (Ecole polytechnique federale de Zurich) wanted to know.Continue reading “We Know We’re Made of Stardust. But Did it Come From Red Giants?”