For the first time, astronomers have clearly documented an area where moons appear to be forming around a planet outside our solar system. In addition, they managed to capture this phenomenon in photos.
Roughly 400 light-years away, the planets PDS 70B and PDS 70C orbit the Sun — and around region C is a disk of dust and dust, with enough mass for three moon-sized moons to form there.
Researchers have now been able to prove this, with the help of the ALMA radio telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile.
“Our work includes a clear discovery of the disk where satellites can be formed,” he says. Myriam Benesti at the French University of Grenoble Alps and the Universidade de Chile of Chile, in a press release from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
What distinguishes the distant solar system is that it is very small. The planet-orbiting star – PDS – is estimated to be roughly newborn, a paltry six million years old, compared to our Solar System, which is 4.6 billion years old.
“We have all these beautiful theories[ofhowplanetsandmoonsform)”BenistertoldtheNewYorkTimes”butaslongasyoucan’ttestthemtheycouldbecompletelywrong”
Scientists believe that planets consist of clouds of dust and gas around stars. Around the PDS there is a circular disk that orbits the star like a ring. When planets form, they can in turn absorb material from the larger disk, and have their own smaller disks. In addition to contributing to its growth, the disks around the planets can also form their celestial bodies – the moons – which seems to happen in this system.
So the discovery isn’t just important for determining how moons are formed.
“More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered so far, but all of them have been discovered in mature systems. PDS 70B and PDS 70C, which form a system reminiscent of Jupiter and Saturn, are the only two exoplanets discovered so far.” poster Miriam Keibler At the German Maxbank Institute in the press release.
The planets in question were discovered in 2018 and 2019, respectively, by the VLT Giant Telescope, and the new discoveries provide new insights into the solar system. The disk surrounding PDS 70C is massive, as large in diameter as the distance between Earth and the Sun, and 500 times larger than Saturn’s rings.
There does not appear to be a similar disk around Planet B, indicating that C is starving its neighbor of dust.
The researchers hope to gain more knowledge soon about the secrets of the PDS system. In the Atacama Desert, a very large ELT telescope is being built, which when completed will target the young solar system and provide clearer images of what is going on there.
The study was published in the scientific journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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