Astronomers detect lunar disk around exoplanet for the first time – .

Astronomers detect lunar disk around exoplanet for the first time – .

TORONTO – Astronomers have detected for the first time the presence of a disk around a planet outside our solar system.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory which is partially managed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), astronomers saw the disc, called the “circumplanetary disc”, surrounding the exoplanet PDS 70c, one of the two Jupiter-like giants. planets orbiting a star nearly 400 light years away.

The researchers had already found clues to a disk forming around the PDS 70c, according to a statement, but had so far been unable to get a clear enough picture to support their theory. Their findings were published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Our work presents a clear detection of a disk in which satellites could form,” study author Myriam Benisty said in the statement. “Our ALMA observations were obtained at such exquisite resolution that we were able to clearly identify that the disk is associated with the planet and we are able to constrain its size for the first time. “

Using ALMA, Benisty and the team discovered that the disc is approximately the same diameter as our Sun’s distance from Earth and sufficient mass to form up to three Moon-sized satellites.

“These new observations are also extremely important in proving theories of the formation of planets that have not been tested so far,” said study author Jaehan Bae.

The planets form into dusty disks around young stars, digging into space as they collect material from the disk to expand. In this process, a planet can acquire its own circumplanetary disk, which aids in the growth of the planet by regulating the amount of matter that falls on it.

At the same time, gas and dust from the circumplanetary disk can collect into larger and larger bodies through multiple collisions, ultimately leading to the birth of moons.

But astronomers do not yet fully understand the details of these processes. “In short, we still don’t know when, where and how planets and moons form,” ESO researcher Stefano Facchini said in the statement. “This system therefore offers us a unique opportunity to observe and study the formation processes of planets and satellites. “

The exoplanets PDS 70b and PDS 70c, the two planets that make up the system, were first discovered using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The latest high-resolution ALMA observations have now given astronomers a better understanding of the system.

For example, researchers found that because the PDS 70b did not have clear evidence of a disk, it was likely deprived of material because of the PDS 70c forming its own.

The researchers hope to continue their study using ESO’s extremely large, high-resolution telescope, currently under construction on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert.


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